By Ronn Rowland
Phoenix Sports Writer
When the Connors State Cowboys begin the home portion of their 2012-13 season tonight, expectations will be as usual coming off a 22-8 season.
“Our goals are always high, ever since my first year here,” said coach Bill Muse, who is entering his 21st year at CSC. “First is to win our conference championship then play for a regional title and advance to Hutchison (Kan.) for the national tournament.”
Returning to lead the Cowboys on their way towards their goals is Josh Cameron, a 6-1 guard from Racing, Wisc., who averaged 14.9 points per game. Inside for the Cowboys will be Denell Henderson, a 6-8 forward from Demascus, Ark., who was Connors’ leading rebounder with an average of 6.8 rebounds per outing.
“Josh started for us all year long and will start for us this year,” Muse said. “Denell has grown a little in the off-season and will be a force inside.”
Also returning for Connors are Devante Moore, a 6-2 guard from El Reno. He will be joined by Hakeem Harris, a 6-1 guard transfer from Broward Community College in Florida, who began his CSC career with 12 points in the Cowboys’ 87-66 win over Central Baptist College last Thursday.
“Devante came off the bench for us last year on the wing and gave us good minutes,” Muse said. “When I took the job here at Connors, Hakeem’s brother Frank was the very first player I signed. Frank’s mom had just had a baby that year and that baby was Hakeem.”
New to the Warner campus are Willie Atwood, a 6-8 forward from West Memphis, Ark., who led the Cowboys in scoring against Central Baptist, and a series of freshmen that are competing in Jamarcus Weatherspoon, a 6-5 guard from Baton Rouge, La., Troy Jones, a 6-7 forward from Alexandria, La., and Craig Hill, a 6-7 forward from Memphis, Tenn.
“We started four sophomores and a freshman against Central and Willie was that freshman,” Muse said. “Jamarcus is a wing player, slasher. Troy is a very sturdy player in the post who won two state championships and Craig comes from a nationally-ranked high school program and those two give us four quality post players.”
Two area players that decided to play collegiately at Connors are Tony Cabrera from Hilldale and Erick Broadnax from Porter, both of whom were named to the 2011-12 All-Phoenix boys prep basketball team
“Tony walked on the team and will play and pick up loose minutes when available,” Muse said. “He will also helps us a lot in practice. Erick will redshirt this year. That was the game plan when we signed him. Erick weighs about 185 pounds and we wanted him to add some strength in the weight room and he’s making great progress.”
For fans attending tonight’s home opener, there will be a special treat as an Elvis impersonator will perform at halftime. The impersonator also has a working knowledge of basketball as his real name is Brent Giddens, the boys coach at Beggs High School.
“Brent does a lot of performing around the area and has the entire act down,” Muse said. “He has the sideburns and hair and is very entertaining.”
Women looking to return to glory days
When Eddie Kite’s Cowgirls take the floor tonight, his squad will be a lot healthier than this time last season.
Prior to the opening of the 2011-12 campaign, five players were lost for different reasons but the team battled its way to a 17-13 record and a berth in the NJCAA Region II semifinals.
“We were really beat up last year,” the coach said. “That team played hard every night. It was just one of those years where you have a lot of injuries. We were able to get kinda healthy towards the end of the year and make a little run in the postseason. We just didn’t have enough bullets.”
Returning from last year’s team are second-team All-Conference Tiara Hall, a 6-0 forward from Paris, Texas, who led the team with 8.8 rebounds per game to along with 12.3 points per game, Tonisha Dean, a 5-11 guard from Terrell, Texas, who averaged 8.8 points per outing, Dakota Garrett, a 5-9 guard from Ketchum, who balanced 3.9 points per outing with 4.4 rebounds, and Shakayla Love, a 6-2 center from Preston who was one of the five players injured before the season and missed the entire year.
“Tiara is Tiara,” Kite said. “Tonisha and Dakota got a lot of minutes last year and some starts. Shakayla was our leading rebound and second-leading scorer as a freshman. All four will bring some good leadership to help the freshmen to develop earlier on and getting the chemistry where it needs to be.”
Kite is enthused about several newcomers that could help the Cowgirls return to prominence. Arriving in Warner are Kami Bunch, a 5-6 guard from Tulsa, Sha-Georgia Williams, a 5-4 guard from Mesquite, Texas, and Raven Massey, a 5-6 guard from Commerce, Texas.
“Kami and Sha-Georgia are both very good point guards, so we feel we have better depth at that position,” Kite said. “Raven is a very good defensive player and these three add to a very full guard slot.”
Kite also has brought in two perimeter shooters in Hayley Keys, a 5-4 guard from Oaks, and Shakemia Franklin, a 5-7 guard from Paris, Texas.
Kite is anticipating the start to the season and said the players are raring to go.
“We’re ready to play a game,” he said. “We’re ready to find our identity.”