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Warhawks open 2003-04 basketball campaign

By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
When it comes to junior college sports, programs can change their fortunes for better or worse in a hurry.
The Jefferson Davis Community College Warhawks basketball team is hoping for a quick fix this season. A year ago the Warhawks limped through the campaign to the tune of a 7-23 overall record, 5-7 in the Alabama Community College Conference.
"We were pretty young last season with 10 freshmen. Our youth plus the fact our roster dwindled for various reasons as the season went along took its toll on us," JDCC coach Allen Gainer said.
A combination of five returning players and a promising freshmen class gives Gainer reason to hope for better results this season.
"Our experience should help us out quite a bit. We don't have a lot of size, but we do have some quickness," Gainer said.
The depth factor that plagued the Warhawks last season has already hit the team again. Guard Greg Dickinson, a 6-3 sophomore who led JDCC in scoring last season at 15 points a game, suffered a leg injury in a weightroom accident. Guard Randall Burno (5-11 fr.) injured his shoulder in a preseason contest. The availability of both players is unclear at this time.
"We hope their injuries aren't serious, but we just don't know. If they do have to be out a while, that really cuts into our depth," Gainer said.
In fact with Dickinson and Burno out, the Warhawks have just nine other players. That does not even give Gainer enough players for a scrimmage in practice.
"Fortunately for us, Joe Montgomery, who played with us a few years ago and just graduated from North Georgia College, is back with us as an assistant coach. He is giving us that 10th body we need to scrimmage," Gainer said.
The Warhawks can ill afford to have Dickinson sidelined for a lengthy time.
"Not only did Greg lead us in scoring last season, but he can also rebound and guard that 6-9 player if we need him to do so. He can play the shooting guard role or either forward spot," Gainer said.
Another returning player in the backcourt is Jamal Carson (6-0 soph.). Carson averaged 10 points a game and shot 40 percent from three-point land last season.
"We had Jamal at the two spot (shooting guard) some last year, but we're moving him to point this season. He has quite a bit of quickness and he is a good ball defender," Gainer said.
Chris Owens (6-0 fr.) will also get some time at the point guard spot.
"Chris has picked up things quickly. How well that carries over to games remains to be seen though. Like Jamal, Chris has some quickness. Chris probably has more straight line speed, while Jamal has more lateral speed," Gainer said.
The JDCC coach expects significant contributions from Burno in the backcourt once he returns.
"Randall shoots the ball well and he is also a good defender," Gainer said.
Also in the backcourt is Rob Hubbs (5-10 soph.) Hubbs is a transfer student from Okaloosa Walton.
"Rob can be a key player for us. He is what you call a zone buster because he shoots the ball well from the perimeter," Gainer said.
The final guard is John Madison (5-11 fr.).
"John will see some time at a shooting guard role. He has a lot of potential and a lot of range with his shot," Gainer said.
JDCC will probably not scare any teams with its size. In fact, the only Warhawk over 6-3 is 6-5 sophomore Brandon Montgomery. Montgomery averaged 10 points and five rebounds last season.
"Brandon had a good season last year, but we need for him to improve both his scoring and rebounding this season. He has a lot of tools. He could be the best player in the ACCC, but he needs confidence in himself," Gainer said.
Another sign of JDCC's lack of size is the fact last year's point guard, Jeff Foster (6-2 soph.), has been moved to a forward spot. Foster averaged eight points and led the Warhawks in assists last season.
"Jeff plays with such tremendous heart that I think he'll be able to hold his own inside. In fact, we'll probably start him at the four spot (power forward) in our season opener. He will still see some time in the backcourt. He'll go to a shooting guard when we do certain substitutions," Gainer said.
Kenny Thompson (6-3 soph.) was the top rebounder for the Warhawks last season at seven boards a game. He will return to the inside game this year.
"Kenny is another one of our undersized post players, but he rebounds pretty well for his size and he shoots well from the perimeter," Gainer said.
Gainer indicated Norvell Coleman (6-3 fr.) had one of the more promising preseasons among JDCC's post players.
"Norvell has looked pretty strong so far. He was our top rebounder in the preseason," Gainer said.
A local face on the Warhawks' roster is Brewton's Ryheen Drakeford (6-3 fr.).
"Ryheen will play some small and power forward for us. He is adjusting to the size situation inside. He can also shoot some from the perimeter," Gainer said.
Gainer hopes his team will make up for its lack of size with a quick transition game.
"We're going to try to push the ball up the floor as quickly and as often as we can," Gainer said. "We'll be using a lot of three-guard lineups. In fact, we'll probably start a four-guard lineup in our opener. That may cause some matchup problems for us, but I think it can also cause some matchup problems for our opponents."
As far as the ACCC race is concerned, Gainer tabs defending champ Shelton as the team to beat.
"It has turned into a very competitive conference from top to bottom. There are no easy games. Shelton returns a lot of key people from last year and they also have a lot of size. Because of those factors, I'd call them the early favorite," Gainer said. "Southern Union and Faulkner are always good. They should be contenders as well."
JDCC Warhawks Schedule
Nov. 1 Gadsen Away 2 p.m.
Nov. 3 Pensacola Christian Home 7 p.m.
Nov. 6 Alabama Southern Home 7 p.m.
Nov. 13 L.B. Wallace Home 7 p.m.
Nov. 15 Mount Olive Prep (At Atlanta ) 6:30 p.m.
Nov. 20-22 Chipola Tournament at Marianna (Fla.)
Dec. 4 Alabama Southern Away 7 p.m.
Dec. 6 L.B. Wallace Away 7 p.m.
Dec. 9 Mount Olive Prep Home 6 p.m.
Dec. 12 Bevill Fayette Home 7 p.m.
Jan. 6 Marion Away 7 p.m.
Jan. 10 Gadsen Home 2 p.m.
Jan. 12 Enterprise Home 7 p.m.
Jan. 15 Hanceville Away 7 p.m.
Jan. 20 Wallace Selma Away 7 p.m.
Jan. 22 Bevill Away 7 p.m.
Jan. 26 Bishop Home 7 p.m.
Jan. 29 Southern Union Home 7 p.m.
Feb. 2 Faulkner Away 7:15 p.m.
Feb. 5 Shelton Away 7 p.m.
Feb. 9 Marion Home 7 p.m.
Feb. 12 Lawson Home 7 p.m.
Feb. 16 Enterprise Away 7 p.m.
Feb. 19 Wallace Selma Home 7 p.m.
Feb. 23 Bishop Away 7 p.m.
Feb. 26 Faulkner Home 7 p.m.
Feb. 28 AJCCC Tournament TBA