Nov. 11, 2013

The start of basketball season doesn't come with the same fanfare that football does in the deep south. Some fans think there isn't as much riding on each game and some argue college basketball season doesn't really start to matter until conference play begins. Still, there is usually some excitement in the weeks before the season and this season is no different.

There seem to be a little more of buzz around Flowers Hall as we approach the opening weekend for UNA Basketball. It seems Lion fans have been able to remain excited about the success of the UNA Football team while also gearing up for the hardwood season.

Five things to look for in the upcoming season:

1. Seniors must step up. Forwards Bruce Adams (14.4 ppg/8.3 rpg), Rashaun Claiborne (14.0 ppg/6.4 rpg) and Wes Long (8.1 ppg/3.1 rpg) must increase their scoring and rebound production from a year ago. Senior guards Marquel Darrington and Tyler Pritchard need to lead the team and cut down on turnovers. Overall, all of these players must become more efficient. As a group, these five returners, shot .384 from the field, .318 from the three-point line and had 240 turnovers to only 201 assists.

2. Improve Field Goal Percentage. The Lions shot just .405 from the field last season and only .317 from the three-point line. These numbers will need to increase as to not put too much pressure on the defense that forced over eighteen turnovers per game last season. Darrington and Claiborne led the team in steals with 58 and 49 each.

3. Finish Strong. The Lions got off to one of the best starts in school history in 2012 with a 8 and 0 start but lost six of their final 10 games. The quick start and the strong in-region schedule propelled the team into the NCAA Tournament for thirteenth time in school history. The Lions will have the same opportunity with 26 South Region games on the schedule.

4. Find Team Chemistry. This team needs a leader and a consistent bench. Much of last seasons' success can be attributed to the tight-knit group the Lions had both on and off the court. They will need to recapture that chemistry if they want to be the first team to go to back to back NCAA tournaments since 1995-96. Junior Nathan Spehr (5.8 ppg/1.6rpg) and Sophomore Jere Vucica 3.1 ppg/3.0rpg), will need to be more consistent than a year ago. Newcomer Calvin Dade must provide some low post presence with the graduation of DeAndre Hersey and his 14.4 points per game, 6.2 rebounds per game and team-leading 26 blocks .

5. Maintain focus. The Lions were picked to win the Gulf South Conference and received enough votes to earn a 23rd ranking in the NABC pre-season poll. There will likely be many UNA fans patting these players on the back and telling them how good they are. The Lions can't let external expectations distract them from their goals or allow complacency to set in.

"I'm excited to get the season started and looking forward to seeing this team improve as the season progresses," Champagne said. "Our schedule is extremely tough and we open with two very good in-region opponents," he continued. "It's nice to have so many in-region games on our schedule, but it is really like playing a conference game right out of the shoot." The UNA Lions play Stillman on Saturday and Fort Valley State on Sunday in the GSC/SIAC Crossover.

. 6, 2013

The top three teams in the final NABC/Division II poll head up the pre-season rankings for the 2013-14 season, but it is the national runner-up, Metropolitan State, that heads the rankings as the season is set to begin next week.

The Roadrunners, who lost 74-73 to Drury in last April's national championship game and are the pre-season favorites to win the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference title this season, received 10 of the 16 first place votes in the poll. Last year's second-ranked team at the end of the year, Seattle Pacific, is No. 2 to start this season and the top-ranked squad in the final poll a year ago, West Liberty, is third as it is coming off its third straight appearance at the Elite Eight.

Bellarmine, the 2011 national champion and 2012 semifinalist, will open in the fourth spot, while Minnesota State came in at No. 5 and South Carolina Aiken at No. 6 in the pre-season. Cal Poly Pomona is seventh in the poll and defending national champion Drury will start the season at No. 8, with Florida Southern and Western Washington rounding out the top 10.

Every team in the pre-season top ten either played in the Elite Eight last season or reached a regional championship game with the exception of Cal Poly Pomona, who lost in the West Regional semifinals to Seattle Pacific.

The second 10 opens with Findlay, followed by Kentucky Wesleyan, Midwestern State, Indiana (Pa.) and Lincoln Memorial. Saint Anselm is ranked 16th in the pre-season, with Northeastern State, Southern Indiana, Alabama-Huntsville and Winona State completing the top 20.

The final five teams in the pre-season poll are Winston-Salem State, Carson-Newman, North Alabama, Livingstone and Harding.

The 2013-14 season will begin with games across the nation on Friday, Nov. 8.


. 11, 2013

When University of North Alabama men's basketball head coach Bobby Champagne opens practice on October 15, he knows that even with eleven returners and only five new players on the roster, the first few practices will show some growing pains.

After pre-season conditioning, the annual Boot Camp and a few individual skill sessions, Champagne has seen some struggles but signs of growth as well.

"I'm very pleased," Champagne said. "We've continued to make strides; our main focus has been to keep our energy and effort at a consistently high level. I'm really encouraged that even though we've struggled picking things up as quickly as I would have hoped. The guys are somewhat buying in and trying to do what we're asking them to do as a staff. I'm very encouraged about the direction we're headed."

"I'd give pre-season conditioning a 'C,'" Champagne said. "I'm really excited about the players' talent level. But if we want to be a championship-level team, then we need to bring energy and effort every day. Talent will only take us so far."

While the team hasn't had to absorb a lot of information thus far, Champagne said it will only get more intense in the coming weeks.

"For me every year is just like starting from scratch, we can't assume that the players remember anything from past seasons and need to teach like it is a brand new team. How quickly their memories kick in will determine when we can install certain things and put in different drills. It's always a work in progress. We are all learning and trying to get better together."

Champagne said that while both the returning players and newcomers have some roadblocks to overcome, everyone will need to push through the adversity.

"A couple of the newcomers, to be quite honest, are fighting through and persevering better than the returning guys," Champagne noted. "The older guys have been complacent at times and haven't always pushed through or led the team like we would expect. We have a long way to go, but we are excited about where we can end up."

. 25, 2013

Union overcame a four-point deficit in the final minute of overtime to stun the University of North Alabama men’s basketball team 101-99 Saturday evening in Jackson, Tenn. With the loss, UNA falls to 17-5 on the season and 10-4 in Gulf South Conference play.

Four UNA players reached double figures in scoring, but the Lions could never pull away in the second half. Union led 46-42 at the break and neither team led by more than four points over the final 20 minutes of play in a game that featured 13 ties and 12 lead changes.

Marquel Darrington scored a career-high 26 points while DeAndre Hersey scored 22 points and pulled down 10 rebounds for North Alabama. Bruce Adams added 19 points on the night while Nathan Spehr rounded out the top UNA scorers with 13 points.

UNA will travel to Rome, Ga., on Thursday for another GSC contest against Shorter.

. 13, 2013

After posting a 1-1 record on the week, the University of North Alabama men’s basketball team dropped two spots, but remained ranked in the National Basketball Coaches Association (NABC) Top 25 Poll.

With 44 total points, the Lions check in at No. 24 to give the team its first back-to-back appearances in the poll since the 2007-08 season. The ranking is the third of the year for North Alabama after entering the NABC poll at No. 23 on Dec. 4 and holding a No. 22 spot last week.

Metropolitan State retained the top spot in the rankings while Western Washington, West Liberty, Cal Poly Pomona and Seattle Pacific rounded out the top five. Fellow GSC member Alabama-Huntsville rose two spots to No. 7.

UNA is 17-4 on the season and will play a GSC road game at Union on Saturday. Tip-off time is set for 4 p.m. on the Union campus in Jackson, Tenn.

After dropping an 87-73 home game to Christian Brothers on Thursday, the University of North Alabama men’s basketball team rebounded by posting a 73-54 win over Delta State Saturday afternoon at Flowers Hall.

The Gulf South Conference split gives the Lions a 17-4 record on the season with a 9-3 league mark. UNA trails Alabama-Huntsville by a single game in the conference standings.

Against the Statesmen, Rashaun Claiborne scored 21 points and pulled down eight rebounds to lead UNA. The Lions used a dominating performance on the boards to defeat DSU for the sixth straight game.

UNA held a commanding 42-24 advantage in rebounding, including 17 offensive boards leading to 18 second-chance points. UNA was also 21-of-27 from the free throw line. North Alabama led 26-22 at the half despite shooting just 26 percent from the floor in the first 20 minutes of play.

Claiborne scored 14 points in the second half as the Lions’ offense came alive. UNA shot 44.4 percent and finished with 73 points-the most Delta State has yielded in GSC play this season. Bruce Adams added 13 points and a game-high nine rebounds for the Lions.

Christian Brothers continued its recent dominance over the UNA Men by extending its streak to eight straight games in the series. Pat Graham hit nine three-point baskets and finished with a game-high 31 points to lead the Buccaneers. For the game, the Buccaneers finished with 13 three-pointers.

UNA was just 4-of-24 from long-point range and did not make a three-pointer until Wes Long connected with 9:51 to play. Claiborne finished with 14 points to lead the Lions. Long added 11 points on the night while Adams and Tyler Pritchard had 10 points each.

UNA will play at Union next Saturday. Tip-off is set for 4 p.m. on the UU campus in Jackson, Tenn.

. 8, 2013

Two road victories by a combined three points kept North Alabama tied for first place in the GSC standings last week. A two-point win at West Florida on Thursday followed by a one-point thriller at Valdosta State gives the Lions a 16-3 overall record and 9-2 mark in GSC play. UNA will host Christian Brothers and Delta State this week.

Against UWF, Marquel Darrington scored 24 points, including a pair of free throws with 5.9 seconds remaining to lift the Lions to an 82-80 win. In a game that featured 15 ties and 13 lead changes, West Florida was poised for the upset after rallying from a 34-32 deficit at the half. A desperation three-pointer, however, was off the mark as time expired. DeAndre Hersey added 12 points and seven rebounds for North Alabama while Nathan Spehr was 3-for-3 from three-point range and added a pair of free throws to finish with 11 points on the night. Rashaun Claiborne rounded out the top scorers for the Lions with 10 points.

At Valdosta State, Hersey scored the go-ahead basket with 17 seconds remaining and the Lions blocked two shots on the Blazers’ final possession to preserve a 74-73 win. North Alabama led by as many as 17 in the first half before taking a 39-36 lead into the break. VSU was able to stay within striking distance by hitting 24-of-29 free throw attempts. Neither team led by more than four points in the second half; the final 15 minutes of play featured eight ties and seven lead changes. Bruce Adams connected on 10 shots from the floor and finished with a game-high 23 points. Hersey added 13 points on the night while Nathan Spehr also reached double figures with 12 points for the Lions.

. 31, 2013

A pair of Gulf South Conference victories last week kept North Alabama tied for first place in the league standings. UNA defeated West Georgia on the road before returning home to down West Alabama.

The Lions will begin the second half of their GSC schedule by traveling to West Florida and Valdosta State this week. Against UWG, the Lions watched a 13-point lead slip away in the second half before out-scoring the Wolves 13-8 in overtime to get an 80-75 road win. UNA led 39-33 at the half and held a 51-38 advantage with 13:45 remaining before the Wolves rallied to tie the game at 67-67 in the final minute.

DeAndre Hersey led the Lions with 21 points and also pulled down 11 rebounds. Bruce Adams added 19 points and 14 rebounds on the night for his second double-double of the year while Rashaun Claiborne rounded out the top scorers for North Alabama with 18 points.

After committing a season-high 25 turnovers against West Georgia, the Lions turned the ball over a season-low seven times the following game against West Alabama. Adams and Hersey again came up big with 21 and 14 points respectively. Both players also added double-digit rebound performances.

After trailing 37-34 at the break, UNA regained the lead early in the second half but could not pull away. The Lions led 70-67 in the final minute of play before connecting on four straight free throws down the stretch to secure the win. UNA received 24 votes in this week’s NABC poll.

. 8, 2013

Okay, so it has been a while since I have updated you on what is happening with your UNA Lions. Things got a little hectic towards the end of the semester with finals and all that goes along with the end of the semester. No excuses, just results so here you go...

Unfortunately, our last game before the Christmas break was a 71-68 loss at the hands of Tennessee Temple. This was our first loss of the season and it definitely put a damper on our hopes of heading into the break undefeated and ranked in the Top 25. An 8 and 1 record and 2-0 in the league was a heck of a lot better than a lump of coal.

Most importantly, we had a very strong academic semester with one of our highest semester grade point averages in recent history.

Coming back from a 22 day lay-off you would expect the team to be a little out of shape, we were, but we were able to post a 2-1 record during the Christmas break. The Lions knocked off Georgia Southwestern at home before splitting a GSC road trip - losing to Christian Brothers and defeating Delta State to improve to 10-2 on the season with a 2-1 mark in GSC play.

Against GSW, four players reached double figures in scoring and the UNA defense forced 21 turnovers in the 74-65 win. The Lions converted the 21 GSW miscues into 19 points to rally from a 34-33 deficit at the half. DeAndre Hersey scored 16 of his game-high 20 points over the final 20 minutes of play. Rashaun Claiborne and Bruce Adams had five steals each and also added 15 and 14 points respectively for the Lions. Wes Long rounded out the scoring with 11 points for North Alabama.

In the loss to CBU, the Bucs limited UNA to 5-of-33 shooting in the first half to build a 23-16 lead at the break, then shot a blistering 73 percent from the floor over the final 20 minutes of play to pull away for a 69-54 win. Adams finished with 12 points to lead North Alabama while Corey Ricks scored 11 points and Long rounded out the top scorers for the Lions with 10 points.

Following the loss, Coach Josh Pastner of the University of Memphis was kind enough to allow our team to use their practice facility on Friday morning. This allowed us to stay in Memphis and gave us an opportunity to take in a Memphis Grizzlies game. For some of our players it was the first NBA game for them to see in person. I personally enjoyed seeing my friend Dale Osborne who is an assistant coach for the Portland Trailblazers. Following the short trip to Beal Street, it was back to business and down the Blues Highway for our match-up with Delta State.

We were able to get a 69-53 win over DSU. DeAndre Hersey scored 26 points and pulled down seven rebounds. The senior transfer from South Alabama, scored 17 points in the second half as the Lions pulled away. UNA led 28-17 at the break before going 15-of-22 (68.2 percent) from the floor in the second half. Marquel Darrington added 11 points for UNA, who committed a season-low eight turnovers as a team. Keynan Jackson added six assists and three steals for the Lions.

North Alabama will return home for another key GSC game next Saturday against Union. Tip-off is set for 3 p.m. at Flowers Hall. We are hosting our 10th Annual Champagne Brunch prior to the game.

Not making any promises, but I will attempt to give a weekly update as we get into more of routine.

Yours in Hoops,
Coach Champagne

. 4, 2012

UNA Ranked: Click Here to see the Top 25

FLORENCE – Nathan Spehr’s three-point basket with four seconds remaining in overtime lifted the University of North Alabama men's basketball team to a 95-94 victory over Valdosta State Saturday afternoon at Flowers Hall. The win kept the Lions undefeated at 7-0 and represented the first loss of the season for the 6-1 Blazers. UNA also improves to 2-0 in Gulf South Conference play.

The dramatic finished capped a game that featured 16 ties and 19 lead changes. Valdosta State's David Murray connected on a three-pointer at the regulation buzzer to tie the game at 86-86 and force the extra period.

In overtime, VSU held a 93-90 lead with 27 seconds remaining after hitting a three-point shot from the top of the key. The Lions got a layup from Bruce Adams at the other end before immediately fouling to send the Blazers to the free throw line. Shaquille Harris connected on one of two foul shots, leaving the lead at two points and setting up Spehr's game-winner.

Each team had six players reach double figures in scoring. Adams had a game-high 24 points and added a team-best eight rebounds for North Alabama. The junior from Leavenworth, KS, was also 10-of-11 from the free throw line. Rashaun Claiborne added 19 points for UNA while Spehr's game-winning shot gave him 12 points on the day. DeAndre Hersey and Wes Long finished with 11 points each while Marquel Darrington rounded out the top scorers for the Lions with 10 points adding 5 assists. Keynan Jackson did not score for the Lions but he dished out 9 assist and had 2 steals.

Valdosta State was led by Harris, who finished with 23 points. James Anacrean added 22 points while Josh Sparks had 14 points, 16 rebounds and nine blocked shots on the day.

UNA shot 37 percent in the first half and trailed 40-38 at the break. A 16-of-34 shooting effort over the final 20 minutes kept the team within striking distance of the Blazers. The Lions finished the game with a season-high 14 three-point baskets.

The 7-0 start is the best start for a UNA team since Gary Elliott's 1990-91 team. That team started out 8-0 and finished the year 29-4 on the way to the school’s second national championship for men’s basketball.

UNA will host Oakwood on Tuesday. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. at Flowers Hall.

Nov. 30, 2012

Despite shooting 3-for-16 from three-point range, the University of North Alabama men’s basketball team opened Gulf South Conference play with a 67-55 home win over West Florida Thursday evening to improve to 6-0 on the season. The Lions continue to show that they are capable of winning games in a variety of ways.

The win sets up a Saturday afternoon matchup against 6-0 Valdosta State. The 6-0 start is the best for UNA in Champagne’s 10 years as head coach and the best start for UNA since coach Gary Elliot’s 2000-01 started the season 9-0.

With shots not falling against the Argonauts, UNA turned to its defense. The Lions forced 24 turnovers on the night that led to 28 points. West Florida struggled even more from long range, connecting on just 2-of-12 attempts. UNA finished with 18 steals, with Rashaun Claiborne and Marquel Darrington getting four steals each.

North Alabama raced out to an early 23-7 lead before UWF began to close the gap. The Argonauts used a 16-8 run to cut the deficit to 21-23 at the break.

In the second half, West Florida got to within a single point but could never tie or take the lead. A pair of UWF free throws made the score 43-42 with 12:13 remaining. The Lions responded with five straight points, including four from Bruce Adams to regain a 48-42 advantage at the 9:46 mark.

Leading 59-54 with 3:41 remaining, the Lions secured the win by closing the game on an 8-1 run. Nathan Spehr put it away with four straight free throws.West Florida was held without a field goal over the final 4:10 of play.

Adams and Marquel Darrington scored 19 points each to lead UNA. Rashaun Claiborne added 10 points for the Lions. Despite a poor shooting night from the field the Lions were able to connect on 16 of 20 free throws. Adams also led the Lions in rebounding with seven followed by Deandre Hersey’s six rebounds. Lonnie Smith and Keynan Jackson had 5 rebounds each. Jackson had 4 assists for UNA.

Tip-off time for the Valdosta State game has been changed to 2 p.m. at Flowers Hall.

Nov. 16, 2012

After leading at by as many as 22 points in the second half, the University of North Alabama men’s basketball team held off a Morehouse rally to come away with an 89-74 win Friday evening at the GSC-SIAC Challenge in Carrollton, Ga. With the win, the Lions improve to 2-0 on the season.

Four players reached double figures in scoring for UNA, including Bruce Adams, who finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds. Rashaun Claiborne added 18 points for the Lions while DaAndre Hersey also turned in a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

Marquel Darrington rounded out the top scorers for North Alabama with 12 points after going 10-for-12 at the free throw line.

UNA led 49-26 at the break and extended its lead to 52-30 in the early moments of the second half. The Tigers, however, were able to cut into the deficit. A three-point basket by Austin Anderson cut the UNA lead to five points with just over four minutes play.

The Lions answered with three straight scores to push the lead back to double figures. Free throw shooting helped North Alabama maintain its lead down the stretch. As a team, the Lions were 23-of-25 from the foul line, including a 17-of-18 performance in the second half.

UNA also held a commanding 43-29 advantage in rebounding.

North Alabama will remain in Carrollton to face Miles on Saturday. Tip-off time is set for 4:30 p.m. EST at The Coliseum on the UWG campus.

Nov. 12, 2012

DeAndre Hersey scored 20 points to lead the University of North Alabama men’s basketball team to a 92-67 win over Fisk Monday evening at Flowers Hall. The senior transfer from South Alabama helped the Lions get the 2012-13 season off to a 1-0 start, giving head coach Bobby Champagne an 8-2 record in season-openers during his 10 seasons with the Lions.

After taking a 43-33 lead into the break, UNA was able hold off the Bulldogs over the final 20 minutes of play. The Lions kept a double digit lead throughout the second half, leading by as many as 26 with 3:06 remaining.

Bench scoring proved to be a big factor in the game, with UNA holding a 51-7 advantage in the category. A total of 10 different players scored for the Lions, including Rashaun Claiborne and Bruce Adams who netted 14 points each. Claiborne wrapped up a double-double performance with 12 rebounds while Corey Ricks rounded out the top scorers for North Alabama with 11 points on the night.

UNA took 28 three-point attempts, connecting on only seven for the game. Lonnie Smith was 3-for-5 from long range.

The North Alabama men’s and women’s basketball programs celebrated Military Appreciation Night on Monday. Members of the United States armed services were recognized at the half while coaching staffs from both UNA teams donned camouflage fatigues.

The Lions will be back in action this weekend at the GSC-SIAC Challenge in Carrollton, Ga. UNA will play Morehouse at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, followed by a 3 p.m. game Saturday against Miles. Tip-off times are CST and will be played at The Coliseum on the campus of the University of West Georgia.

Nov. 10, 2012

Long Beach State fought off a North Alabama charge early in the second half, then maintained a double-digit lead down the stretch for a 75-65 win over the Lions Saturday in men’s basketball exhibition play at Walter Pyramid on the LBSU campus.

The Lions used some scrappy defense and hustle in the opening minutes of the game and the start of the second half to keep within striking distance. UNA also kept LBSU from scoring a field goal in the final seven minutes of the game to cut into the lead in the final minutes of the game.

After trailing 44-31 at the break, UNA opened the second half on an 11-0 run. A three-point basket by Wes Long cut the deficit to 44-42 with 17:23 remaining, prompting a LBSC timeout. The 49ers, however, responded with a 16-4 run of their own to stretch the lead back to 14 points midway through the second half.

Long Beach State led by as many as 20 points in the second half before the Lions made one last surge. Trailing 71-51 at the 7:07 mark, UNA was able to cut the deficit in half in just under five minutes. A three-pointer by Bruce Adams made the score 73-63 with 2:23 remaining, but UNA could never get within single digits.

Both teams suffered from turnovers throughout the game. UNA committed 23 on the day while LBSU had 26 miscues. The 49ers also held a 48-37 advantage in rebounding.

North Alabama shot just 34.9 percent from the floor, including an 8-of-29 mark from three-point range. Rashaun Claiborne led the Lions with 17 points. Long connected on four three-pointers and finished with 13 points while Adams also reached double figures with 10 points. Lonnie Smith was the leading rebounder for UNA, grabbing 10 boards for the game.

UNA will open the regular season with a Veteran's Day Celebration Monday against Fisk. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. at Flowers Hall.

November 6, 2012

The UNA Lions connected on 32 shots from the field while the UAB Blazers tallied 35 makes on the night en route to a 98-81 loss to the Conference USA team. UAB also used an advantage in rebounding to hold off the University of North Alabama men's basketball Saturday in first exhibition game of the season. The host Blazers held a 46-29 edge in the category, including 18 on the offensive end. Three-point shooting kept the Lions in striking distance. UNA was 10-of-22 from beyond the arc, with six long-range shots coming from Wes Long. The junior from Summertown, Tenn., was 6-of-9 from three-point range and finished a game-high 20 points.

Three other players reached double figures in scoring for North Alabama. Bruce Adams recorded 18 points while Marquel Darrington added 16 points on the day. Rashaun Claiborne rounded out the top scorers for the Lions with 11 points. Keynan Jackson led UNA with 10 assists.

The Blazers, who also had four players reach double digits, led 48-32 at the half. UAB led by as many as 20 in the second half, but could never pull away. The Lions connected on six three-pointers over the final 20 minutes of play and cut the deficit. UNA was also very scrappy on the defensive end of the court forcing 22 turnovers and recording 8 steals.

In the second half, UNA cut the deficit to single digits on a pair of free throws by Darrington to make the score 67-58 with 9:49 remaining. UAB, however, responded with a 13-4 run to stretch the lead back to 17 points at the 6:31 mark. North Alabama will play another exhibition game next Saturday in California. The Lions will take on Long Beach State at 1 p.m. CST.

12, 2012


The University of North Alabama men's basketball team was picked to finish fifth in the Gulf South Conference preseason poll released on Thursday. The Lions received 26 points in the poll voted on by head coaches from around the league.

UNA returns seven lettermen and only one starter from last year's squad that finished fifth in the GSC regular-season standings. The Lions were 15-12 on the season and lost to West Florida in the opening round of the conference tournament. The 2012-13 UNA team will feature seven newcomers and must replace a pair of All-South Region selections lost to graduation.

Defending GSC champion and 2011-12 NCAA Division II Elite Eight representative Alabama-Huntsville was the overwhelmingly favorite to repeat as conference champions again this season. The Chargers received all seven first-place votes to finished with 49 points.

Christian Brothers collected four second-place votes and finished with 36 points for second place while West Georgia (30 points) and West Alabama (29 points) were the other teams ranked ahead of the Lions in the preseason standings. Delta State and Valdosta State each received 20 points to tie for sixth place while West Florida rounded out the poll with 14 points.

North Alabama will play road exhibition games against UAB on Nov. 3 and Long Beach State on Nov. 10 before opening the regular season at home on Nov. 12 against Fisk. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. at Flowers Hall..

September 11, 2012


After graduating from the University of South Alabama, 6-6 forward DeAndre Hersey will play his final season of eligibility with the North Alabama men's basketball team. UNA head coach Bobby Champagne said the latest addition to the Lions will give the team some needed size as well as more athleticism.

"DeAndre will be someone who can score from different areas on the court," said Champagne. "He is a shot blocker and a rebounder who can play on the perimeter or in the paint. He definitely gives us another scoring threat."

Hersey prepped at Pickens County High School, averaging 20.4 points, 10.2 rebounds and 3.4 blocks per game while leading his team to a 21-9 record during his senior season. He set the Tornadoes' school record for blocked shots on their way to the Class 2A AHSAA state quarterfinals. He made 56 percent from the field, including 34 percent from beyond the three-point arc.

In addition to earning all-state honors twice, he was named to the Tuscaloosa News Super 5 as a junior and senior and was selected Most Valuable Player in the area tournament.

Hersey played in 20 games last season for the South Alabama Jaguars averaging more than seven minutes per game and just under two points and two rebounds per contest.

As a freshman, he redshirted during the 2008-09 season and played in 30 games the following year with two starts. He scored 12 points and pulled down nine rebounds vs. Florida International and hit a game-winning shot at Florida on a put-back with 1.8 seconds remaining.

In 2010-11 Hersey played in 26 games with two starts. He averaged 2.5 points and 2.2 rebounds during the season and ranked 15th in the Sun Belt Conference in blocks per game. He had five games with two or more blocked shots.

Hersey is one of six players on the UNA roster from Alabama. He is also the sixth signee, joining Bruce Adams (Leavenworth, Kan./Independence CC), Rashaun Claiborne (Darrow, La./Delgado CC), Lonnie Smith (Birmingham, Ala./LA Tech), Jere Vucica (Split, Croatia/Santa Fe CC) and Demetrice Jacobs (Harlem, N.Y./Northwestern State) as the members of the 2012 recruiting class.

10, 2012

Lonnie Smith is Fifth Signee of 2012 Recruiting Class

Bobby Champagne announced the addition of Louisiana Tech transfer Lonnie Smith, who was named second team all-state by Alabama Sports Writers Association in 2010 following his senior season at Ramsay High School in Birmingham, Alabama.

Smith, a 6-5 guard, who will have two years of eligibility remaining, broke the LA Tech Bulldogs' school record for best three-point percentage by a freshman with 39.8 percent (8th best in the WAC). He also had a season-high 19 points vs. Georgia State. In his sophomore season, Smith played in 16 games he scored 13 points on 5-of-11 shooting including 3-for-6 from three-point range, matched career-high of seven rebounds and two steals and dished out season-best three assists in his only start of the season. He also scored 10 points off the bench at Southern Miss and grabbed four rebounds against Utah State.

"Lonnie is going to fit right in with our team," said Champagne. "He is versatile and very athletic, a really rangy player who can play multiple positions. He'll give us another scoring threat from the perimeter as well as some size."

Smith averaged 17 points, nine rebounds and two assists as a senior while leading Ramsay High School to the Alabama High School Association Class 4A state championship. He was named regionals MVP in 2008-09 earned regionals all-tournament team honors in 2009-10 and was named to the Birmingham City All-Tournament team in 2008, 2009 and 2010. He earned a spot in the annual Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic. He was named rebound and defensive player of the year at Ramsay and was named the number six player in the Birmingham area by the Birmingham News.

Smith joins Bruce Adams (Leavenworth, KS/Independence CC), Rashaun Claiborne (Darrow, Louisiana/Delgado CC), Jere Vucica (Split, Croatia/Santa Fe CC) and Demetrice Jacobs (Harlem, NY/Northwestern State LA) as the members of the 2012 recruiting class. UNA is looking to replace five seniors from the 2011-12 team. The Lions lost their top three scorers as well as the top four rebounders.

17, 2012

Small Forward Adams Signs with the UNA Lions

The University of North Alabama added one signee, four overall, with the addition of 6'5" forward Bruce Adams.

Adams is a native of Leavenworth, Kansas, where he was a standout for Leavenworth High School. He played the past two seasons at Independence Community College in Kansas where he averaged 12.8 points, 8.1 rebounds per game shooting 53.3 percent from field in his sophomore season for the Pirates. He helped lead his team to an 18-4 record in the Jayhawk Conference.

"Bruce is a winner on and off the floor," head coach Bobby Champagne said. "He is well-coached and played in one of the best junior college leagues in the country."

"He comes from a winning background," Champagne added. "He can really shoot the basketball, is an excellent rebounder but he's a great team guy. Bruce can handle it like a guard and has the size of a small forward. "He fits exactly what we are looking for." Champagne continued, "We are very excited to have him join our UNA family."

Adams was an Honorable Mention All-Conference player this season with season highs of 27 points (vs. Garden City) 14 rebounds (vs. Coffeyville) and 5 blocks (vs. Butler). "Bruce is one of the toughest and hardest workers I have coached at Independence, North Alabama is getting a great player but an even better person," said Patrick Nee, head coach Independence Community College.

UNA graduated five senior starters in 2012. Two played guard positions and three played the forward position.

Adams joins Rashaun Claiborne (Darrow, Louisiana/Delgado CC), Jere Vucica (Split, Croatia/Santa Fe CC) and Demetrice Jacobs (Harlem, NY/Northwestern State LA) as the members of the 2012 recruiting class.

5, 2012

Guard from New York will join Lions for 2012-13 season

University of North Alabama men's basketball head coach Bobby Champagne announced that Demetrice (DJ) Jacobs signed a grant in aid to join the Lions for the 2012-13 season.

Jacobs is a 6-3 guard from Harlem, New York, where he played his senior season for Wings Academy and was the team's MVP as well as a first team All-conference selection.

"We are really excited to add Demetrice to our program. He has the frame and ability to be a big guard who can shoot and score in our conference," Champagne said about the latest addition to the UNA Lions. "He really compliments our roster and fits in our attacking style of play with his skill set."

Jacobs was a major contributor in junior college leading his Missouri State-West Plains team to a number one ranking in the country and a 31-4 record. He averaged 14.5 points and 4.2 rebounds as a sophomore for the Grizzlies while shooting 575 from the field and 495 from beyond the three-point line. He played 2011-12 season at Northwestern State in Louisiana. DJ played in 16 games averaging 6.6 points per game and 2.5 rebounds per game.

"DJ has a great feel for the game, tremendous court awareness and has been very well coached during his career," Champagne added. "He is a player who will fit in well with the returning players as well as the other signees. His best days are ahead of him and we are thrilled to have him join our UNA family."

Jacobs will be one of two seniors on UNA roster in the fall. The Lions return five of the members of the 2011-12 roster. He joins other signees Jere Vucica and Rashuan Claiborne who signed in the Spring. The Lions are replacing the top three scorers as well as the top four rebounders from last year's team.

15, 2012

NEW LIONS: Jere Vucica and Rashaun Claiborne

The University of North Alabama men's basketball team added another piece of the recruiting puzzle with the signing of Jere Vucica this week. The 6-8 small forward is originally from Split, Croatia will have four years of eligibility after redshirting his freshman season at Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville, Fla.

"We are very fortunate to sign a player like Jere and have him for four years," said UNA head coach Bobby Champagne. "He will be a great fit for us both as a player and a student."

Vucica comes from a basketball family. His father, Petra played professionally for 12 years and coached for 23. His brother, Josip has also played professionally for the past eight years.

"Jere has played basketball and been around the game all of his life," Champagne added. "He has several years of experience playing for national and junior teams in Croatia and Belgium. This past season he was able to gain some weight and strength and become accustomed to the style of basketball played in America. His athleticism, versatility and overall skill level will certainly help our team."

Vucica plans to major in economics when he begins classes in the fall. He is the second signee of the 2012-13 recruiting class and joins Rashaun Claiborne of Delgado Community College. UNA must replace five seniors from the 2011-12 team. The Lions lost their top three scorers and top four rebounders from last season.

Bobby Champagne has announced the addition of Rashaun Claiborne to the 2012-13 recruiting class. The 6-4 small forward was a major contributor for two seasons at Delgado Community College in New Orleans, La., averaging 19.7 points per game during his sophomore season.

The Darrow, La., native totaled 428 points over 26 games last season for coach Tommy Smith. He was also a team captain and a first team all-conference selection. During his freshman campaign, he earned all-conference and All-Region 23 honors after averaging 16.5 points and 7.8 rebounds per game.

Claiborne was also a prep standout at St. Amant High School in Gonzales, La. As a senior for coach Gary Duhe, he was a first team All-District 6 selection as a junior and was named District 6 5A Player of the Year as a senior.

Claiborne represents the first signee of the 2012-13 recruiting class. UNA is looking to replace five seniors, including its top three scorers and top four rebounders.

"We have a number of holes to fill and this is a tremendous start," said Champagne. "Rashaun can score and rebound. Coach Kyle Morris did an excellent job recruiting a very talented player, who will fit in both on and off the court at the University of North Alabama."


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