Marion, AL—The Marion Military Institute (MMI) men's basketball team enjoyed one of its finest seasons last year with a record-breaking campaign that featured 24 wins and its first Alabama Community College Conference title. Philip Stitt, MMI's head basketball coach, hopes that he and his team can capture lightning in a bottle (more like lightning in a basket) twice.
If the Sporting News, the preeminent and venerable voice of all things sports since 1866, is correct in its preseason predictions, then MMI, termed a "sleeper" in the 2016 JUCO Report, is well on its way to another banner year in basketball.
Gone from last year's championship squad are 6'1" forward Christian Bradford and 6'2" guard Ronnie Baylark. Touted as a talented transfer player by the Sporting News, Bradford now attends Radford University, where he is expected to play valuable minutes for the Highlanders. Baylark's new basketball home is Tusculum College. Like Bradford, Baylark, too, should see considerable playing time for his new team, the Pioneers.
Stitt seeks to fill those big shoes with sophomores Charles Tripp and Quamari Hardy. Tripp, a 6'7" forward, averaged 6.9 points and 4.8 rebounds per game last year, while Hardy, a 6'1" point guard, contributed 7.9 points and 2.4 assists per game.
The Tigers have added ten new players to the 2016-17 roster. Two of those newcomers—6'7" forward Mikel Davis and 6'1" point guard Treyvon Francis—should have an immediate impact on the Tigers' fortunes. According to Stitt, Davis possesses "great hands and great feet," and Francis, a transfer from Savannah State University, "picks up stuff quickly." Also accorded praise was 6'3" guard Justin Longstreet, whom Stitt calls the Tigers' "best pure shooter."
"We do have good individual talent and we are working hard," Stitt says. "The key is to get these young guys to understand college basketball. They need to acclimatize themselves to the pace of the college game, the intensity of the college game, and the physicality of the college game."
Once the acclimatization process is completed, the "sleeper" label might have to be lifted. But until then, the rest of the teams in the Alabama Community College Conference had better keep a watchful eye on this sleeping giant.
On a side note: the 2016-17 preseason NJCAA included MMI in the receiving votes column