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Challenging slate ahead for Stars

by Jason Avery | November 4, 2022 at 12:00 a.m.

South Arkansas Community College got the 2021-22 season off to a rousing start by winning its first five games and six of their first eight games, but a six-game losing streak ended the season on a down note.

With the 2022-23 season set to begin, first-year coach Nate Evans has put together a schedule that he hopes will have the Stars ready for region play, and there are several teams he is looking forward to competing against.

“Champion Christian College in Hot Springs, we’re playing them twice, and they won the national tournament from their league two, three years ago,” Evans said. “I’m really excited to play them. Copiah-Lincoln is a Division I junior college and their coach is one of the winningest active coaches in college basketball. They have a really good program. Holmes Community College in Mississippi is another Division I JUCO that we’ve never played before in either men’s or women’s, so we’re really excited to play them.

“We’re playing Crowley’s Ridge JV. Coach Brad Phillips is doing really good with that program. They’ve made the national tournament a few times since he’s been there. We’re playing some good four-year schools and some good Division I JUCOs. 

“Playing those four-year schools for the competition aspect, but also getting our girls exposure and getting them a chance to play in front of those varsity coaches and hopefully get some offers.”

The Stars play eight games in November with two more scheduled in early December, but the Stars will then be on hiatus until January 10.

Although the gap in the schedule isn’t ideal, Evans said he and his team will make the most of it.

“It was kind of a weird situation for our women’s team with the timing of coach (Nate) Davis leaving and the timing of me stepping in and getting adjusted with my student recruitment role on campus,” Evans said. 

“With everything going and having to get everything situated on the fly, by the time that we got ready to make a schedule, teams that we had reached out to already had their Decembers filled, so it was just a timing thing. That will never happen again for us. I don’t know what coach (Cam) Robinson wants to do on the men’s side, but it will never happen for us.

“We’re going to space out. Honestly, there’s nothing we can do about it. We’re going to use it to our advantage good or bad with how our fall semester season goes. If it’s something we need to adjust, I think we’re going to use that time to figure out who we are or if things have gone really good, we’re going to use that period to grow our confidence in practice and make sure that when region season rolls around, that we’re ready. 

“I’m also going to be selfish and use that time to recruit and go check out some holiday classics. That’s something me and coach Davis had no time to do last year.”

As far as the region is concerned, North Arkansas, fresh off of a 22-4 season and a perfect regular season record in Region 2 play, is ranked No. 17 in the Division II preseason poll with SAU Tech receiving votes.

“They’re always really good. Coach Bobby Howard does a great job of getting talent in and out,” Evans said of the Pioneers. “SAU Tech is always going to be good. Really everyone is competitive, and the region with women’s basketball especially has steadily increased. It’s going to be a good battle for us day in and day out. We play everybody twice home and away. 

“Each game, we’re going to have to bring our best. I’m excited to learn as a first-year head coach how to adjust when we play NorthArk at home and when we play them away and see how we can adjust on the fly and see how we can adapt all year.”

Evans was able to add more games to the Stars’ schedule, and he’s excited to see how his team fares against tough competition.

“We’ve got eight more games on the schedule this year than we did last year,” Evans said. “We’re playing some Division I JUCOs, so the competition in our schedule is there. Maybe I’m young and ignorant, but I’d like to see where we’re at right away. I don’t want to run. I don’t want to hide. I want to play the best competition because one day I expect to be there with our program. The region is tough. Everybody makes the tournament, but from there, it’s lose and go home, win and advance. 

“Our goal is to be the first basketball team in SouthArk history to move past the first round of the regional tournament. That’s our goal. We want to have a winning record and we want to get past the first round of the regionals.”

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