Falcons basketball off to surprising start

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 25, 2003

This is not the team many thought it would be one month ago.

The University of Montevallo Falcons basketball team was picked seventh in the Gulf South Conference’s East Division in late October, but now is off to its best start in 11 years after beating NCAA Division II No. 7 Rollins College 77-61 in the season opener on Nov. 15, No. 18 Columbus State University 91-83 the next day and Concordia College of Selma 107-57 the following Tuesday.

&uot;I think it’s great to come out and have the kind of energy that these guys have and the cohesiveness that we have this early,&uot; said UM head coach Danny Young. &uot;The atmosphere in the gym, the students, the community, was great (our first three games). It was loud, and I thought that was a contributing factor in our wins.&uot;

The Falcons were nested atop the GSC standings at 3-0 before hosting No. 22 Kennesaw State University yesterday at 8 p.m. They travel to Kennesaw, Ga., this weekend to take on St. Paul’s College and Tusculum College in the KSU Tournament.

Young, in his first year with the Falcons, brings a 51-11 record to UM from Salem International University, where he spent two years as head coach and made two consecutive NCAA Division II tournament appearances.

Only a single player returns from last season’s 4-25 team. Kenny Cooper, the only senior, was second on the team in scoring last year with 11.3 points a game. He is currently third on the team in scoring with 10.3 points a game.

Having only one player back gave Young a chance to recruit a brand new team. He has brought in two guards from Brooklyn, N.Y., Rashein Little and Tareick Leach, Tamarcus Mitchell from Phoenix, Ariz., and a flock of players from the Birmingham area.

D.J. Towns, a 6-2 junior guard from Hueytown, has jumped out front as the team’s leading scorer. Towns, named GSC Player of the Week last week, is averaging 20.3 points a game including going 14 for 21 from the 3-point arc.

Marcus Kennedy, a freshman from Birmingham, is second on the team with 19.3 points a game, and two double-doubles on the season with 22 points and 12 rebounds against Concordia along with 23 points and 14 rebounds against CSU.

Two things that are bringing excitement to Myrick Hall on the campus of Montevallo are rim-rattling dunks, long 3-point baskets and strong blocked shots.

Centers Marcus Lewis and Jarmaine Vanness, both of Birmingham, combined for five slam-dunks against Concordia that brought the crowd to their feet. They also have combined for 15 blocked shots.

Also joining the Falcons this season is Marcus Kennedy’s older brother, Caleb.

Caleb Kennedy comes to Montevallo from Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kan., where he led the team in scoring and rebounding averaging 16.5 points and 10.9 rebounds per game in 2001-02 and registered 19 double-doubles on the season, earning the honor of being a 2002 Division II All-American.

He has missed the first three games of the season due to injury but hopes to return for Tuesday’s home match up against Kennesaw State.

UM leads the GSC in offensive rebounding and is second in overall rebounding, outrebounding their opponents by an average of 13.7 rebounds a game. They are also second in the conference in defensive rebounds, blocked shots, assists and field goal percentage. They lead the conference in offensive scoring, averaging 91 points a game and in 3-point shooting.

&uot;If we continue to play hard, defend well and rebound, hopefully good things will continue to happen,&uot; Young said