October 31, 2014

BY JOHN D. HOMAN
Logan Media Services

CARTERVILLE – Expect a slightly smaller, yet quicker and better-shooting team when the John A. Logan College Volunteers take the floor tonight at 7 in their season opener with Memphis-based Southern Institute.

Led by third-year head coach Kyle Smithpeters, Logan finished 20-11 last season and tied for first place with Lake Land in the Great Rivers Athletic Conference and Region 24.

“We’re a much more mobile team this year,” Smithpeters said. “I think we have a nice mix of talented veteran players and freshmen. We have more guys who can dribble, pass, run and shoot. I like what I’ve seen in practice.”

The Vols have been perfect in the preseason, winning all seven scrimmages to date.

“But now it’s time to play the games that count,” Smithpeters said. “The schedule is loaded. We play five league games before Christmas, so we have to be ready right out of the chute.”

Returning for a second season with Logan after being granted a medical redshirt last year at Central Missouri State is 6-foot-2 sophomore guard Connor Wheeler of Du Quoin. Two years ago with the Vols, Wheeler was named GRAC All-Conference and All-Region 24 as he averaged 8.6 points, 4.4 assists and 1.2 rebounds. He was also an 84 percent free-throw shooter.

“How fortunate were we to have Connor fall into our lap? His experience is off the charts. He makes us a better team,” Smithpeters said.

Martavian Payne, a 6-foot-2  sophomore guard from St. Louis, is another All-Conference and All-Region performer, averaging 14.5 points per game and better than 42 percent from long range.

Also expected to shine are a pair of 6-foot-8 book-end post players in sophomores Russell Woods (Chicago) and Jordan Martin (St. Louis). A.J. Riley, a 6-foot-4 sophomore guard from Peoria, started most of the season last year and can play inside or out.

Jeremiah Jackson, a 6-foot-2 guard from Canton, Ohio, is a sophomore transfer as is 6-foot-6 forward Tyler Scott from Monroeville, Pa. Scott came to Logan from Kent State, while Jackson played last year at West Plains, Mo. One other sophomore on the squad is 5-foot-11 jumping jack, Bobby Mannie, of Herrin.

There is also one redshirt freshman in 6-foot point guard Justin Lukens of Herrin.

Freshman recruits include: Tamas Bruce (6-foot-8 forward out of Osceola, Ark.); Lamont Walker (6-foot-5 forward from Chicago); Ranell Crossland (6-foot-6 forward from St. Louis); Devontavius Payne (6-foot-1 guard from Carbondale); and Al Jones (6-foot guard from Country Club Hills).

Beginning tonight, Logan will participate in its own invitational tournament. Whereas Southern Institute is the Friday opponent, a club team from Kentucky Wesleyan University is the Saturday match-up set for 2 p.m.

“Southern has already played three games, so they have more live game experience than we do,” Smithpeters said. “I’m sure we will have to play well to beat them. We had them down 20 last year and lost. I think our inexperience showed last year. This year, I would hope that our experience would not allow us to lose such a lead.”

Smithpeters said he knows nothing about the Kentucky Wesleyan team.
“I just want to see us come out and play hard and execute the game plan. If we can do that, we should be OK.”

Smithpeters is assisted by fourth-year men, Zach Carpenter and Charlie Jones.