McNeese basketball opens the book to a new season on Friday night when the Cowboys visit the Houston Cougars at 7 p.m. at the Texas Southern H&PE Arena on the Texas Southern campus.
The game will air live on the McNeese Learfield Radio Network (1470 and 1290 AM, McNeeseSports.com) and will also broadcast live on ESPN3.
McNeese is coming off a 7-22 campaign last season but has gone through a re-energizing offseason that has seen the team build size and strength as well as speed.
“We had a great offseason,” said head coach Dave Simmons who will be starting his 12th season at McNeese. “Our strength and conditioning program has really been beneficial in helping up get stronger and better conditioned.”
The Cowboys return most of the players from last year’s squad including sophomore guard Kalob Ledoux who led the team in scoring with 11.9 points last season to become the first freshman since Joe Dumars to lead the squad in that area.
Ledoux closed out the 2016-17 season on fire, hitting 35 of his 60 shots in the last five games including 25 of 49 from long range. He ended the season with five straight double-digit games with two of those consisting of 22 and 20 points.
He’ll be joined in the lineup by junior point guard Jarren Greenwood and junior three-point aimer James Harvey.
“We’ve had a really good preseason, especially with our shooters,” said Simmons. “James is playing the best he’s played since he’s been here and Richard (Laku) has stepped it up too.
“I believe if we play good defense, get rebounds, and not turn the ball over, we’ll have a shot in most of our games.”
Returning rebounding king Stephen Ugochukwu will get some held down low with the addition of JUCO transfers Quatarrius Wilson and Demarco Owens, both who will provide assistance not only on the glass, but also in the points department.
Add in LaBarrius Hill, Jacob Ledoux and Adrian Brown, the Cowboys will field one of their deepest benches in quite some time.
“That’s a big positive,” said Simmons. “We just have to keep everyone healthy.”
Houston, a member of the American Athletic Conference and coached by Kelvin Sampson, is coming off a 21-11 season last year and a first round NIT appearance.
The Cougars are led by senior guard Rob Gray who was recently named to the Watch List for the Jerry West Shooting Guard of the Year Award.
Gray led the AAC in scoring last season with 20.6 points per game and earned All-AAC first team honors and was selected to the USBWA All-District VII Team and the NABC All-District 25 Second Team.
The game is being played at the TSU H&PE Arena while Houston’s home venue, Hofheinz Pavilion, is undergoing a $60 million renovation and will be reopened as the Fertitta Center for the 2018-19 season.
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