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Abney leads charge as LSUA tries to make it eight straight NAIA Tournament appearances

Jakemin Abney
Jakemin Abney(Cameron Mosely, LSUA Sports Media)
Published: Oct. 22, 2021 at 2:35 PM CDT
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (LSUA) - The LSUA men’s basketball team returns three of its top four leading scorers, as it tries to make it to the NAIA Tournament for the eighth consecutive season.

After reaching the NAIA Tournament last season, the Generals aim to win their sixth Red River Athletic Conference regular-season title in the last eight seasons after coming up a bit short last season.

The Generals open their season Tuesday evening at The Fort when they welcome Southeastern Baptist to Alexandria.

“We’re pumped up,” LSUA Men’s Basketball Coach Larry Cordaro said. “Our players have been preparing for this for a long time.”

It is the first of three straight home games to begin the game, also playing North American University on back-to-back days on Nov. 5 and 6.

The Generals are expected to be ranked in the top 25 of the NAIA poll once again when the polls is released on Oct. 27. The RRAC is expected to be well represented in the poll, as three teams made the NAIA Tournament field last season and newcomer Xavier also made it.

Following a season in which attendance was limited, there is no limit to fan attendance this season, but everyone must be wearing a mask.

The top four leading scorers from the 2019-20 season have departed, which leaves Adebutu as the lone returning scorer who averaged double figures in points this past season.

Jakemin Abney, a Simsboro, La., native, is the leading returning scorer. He was the first freshman to be named First Team All-Red River Athletic Conference since 2009-10. Abney averaged 13.2 points per game last season, including 18 per game in conference play.

Even with the accolades, he accumulated in his first year with the Generals, he knows he can do more.

“I have to do the little things better,” Abney said. “If I do the little things better, such as rebounding, adding to my game, and I will get better.”

In his true freshman campaign, he shot 54.2 percent from the field and 43.5 percent from deep. Abney’s coming out party came in the fourth game of the season last year when he scored 20 on 9-of-12 shooting in a win at UNT-Dallas. He also showed out in front of a Division I opponent, scoring 20 at Stephen F. Austin.

LSUA also returns forwards Joe Lewis and Jevon Berry, both of whom were named All-RRAC second team last season.

Lewis, a Grenada, Miss., native, averaged 10.2 points and a team-best 7.4 rebounds while shooting a team-best 61 percent from the field per contest last season. He made one 3-point shot last year, but has added range to the 3-point line in the offseason.

Berry averaged 11.4 points per game on 50.3 percent shooting last season and recorded the biggest shot of the season for the Generals, a layup with two seconds left to beat previously unbeaten LSU-Shreveport. He also led the team with 36 steals and was second with 16 blocks.

They are three of seven returning players for the Generals, five of which averaged at least 10 minutes per game.

Guard Casey Smith and forward Jalen Perkins are the other major contributors from last season. Smith averaged 6.1 points per game and was second on the team in assists with 52. He scored 15 points in the first half in the big win over LSUS. Perkins averaged 6.5 points per game a season ago.

Being not only one of the older players on the roster but also a point guard, Smith relishes the leadership role.

“I take on the leadership role every day,” Smith said. “Whether it’s with school, basketball or with family, I take on the leadership role and be who I am to help the team in any way possible.”

The Generals have changed a bit in philosophy this season. After being out-rebounded as a whole last season, including 44-32 in the NAIA Tournament loss to Talladega, LSUA decided to get bigger to try to improve on the glass.

“We return a good nucleus of players with Jakemin and Casey being able to make shots from the perimeter, and we have a number of good, solid newcomers entering the program. I really like our depth and balance. It’s going to be another good season for us.”

One newcomer who could break the starting lineup is Nicholls State transfer Anquaevious Pollard, who averaged 2.6 points and 1.7 rebounds per game last season for the Colonels.

The Generals also bring in 6-7 center Trent Colbert, to help on the glass. One of the guards Cordaro brings in is 21-yard-old freshman Christian Coleman, who is 6-8, and will help on the glass as well.

Among the guards who are coming in for the Generals is Pollard’s Nicholls teammate, A.J. Rainey. He could crack the starting lineup with the departure of Munson. Before Nicholls, he was at Blinn Junior College, where he was second on the team in points and assists, averaging 13.5 points and 3.6 assists per contest.

Jason Perry II has stood out among freshmen guards.

“We like his versatility,” Cordaro said. “He’s a ‘What do you need me to do’ type of guy. He can pass, he can shoot and he can play defense.”

After the three straight home games to begin the season, the Generals don’t return to Alexandria for a game until the calendar flips to December. LSUA plays on back-to-back nights at East Texas Baptist and a Division I game at Stephen F. Austin. The Generals led SFA 40-39 at halftime last season before falling 97-79.

LSUA also travels to Panama City, Fla., for the Battle at the Beach. During the three-day tournament, the Generals take on Rust, Loyola and either Brescia or Science & Arts.

Conference play begins on Jan. 6 against Texas A&M-Texarkana at The Fort. LSUA plays newcomers Xavier and Louisiana College at home on Jan. 20 and 22 and play on the road against those teams on Feb. 3 and 5. The Generals play rival and perennial power LSU-Shreveport on Jan. 25 and finish the season on the road against them on Feb. 22.

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