UE women offer in-state sophomore forward

Plainfield High School sophomore forward Riley Blackwell picked up a scholarship offer this month from the University of Evansville women’s basketball program. Her AAU program, and others, tweeted the news:

Blackwell is listed in various places as 5-foot-11 or 6-foot.

UE women offer 2016 center from Memorial High School

University of Evansville women’s basketball coach Oties Epps has continued to recruit the state of Indiana hard, recently offering a scholarship to a 6-foot-3 center in the Aces’ backyard.

Emily Sullivan, a junior at Memorial High School, tweeted earlier this month that the Aces were the first program to offer her a scholarship.

The Aces picked up a verbal commitment Oct. 7 from Macie Lively, a Class of 2016 point guard from Tipton (Indiana) High School.

Sullivan averaged 8.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 4.4 blocks per game in her sophomore season at Memorial, according to Maxpreps.com. She starred in the Tigers’ upset of No. 1-ranked Princeton in the Class 3A Boonville Sectional, posting 14 points and 20 rebounds as Memorial won 41-26.

Women’s basketball picks up commitment from Tipton guard

Macie Lively, a 5-foot-6 point guard from Tipton (Indiana) High School, gave a verbal commitment to the University of Evansville women’s basketball program Tuesday during a visit to campus.

The Class of 2016 prospect announced her decision via Twitter and posted a photo that included Aces head coach Oties Epps.

In August, the Aces became the first Division I program to offer Lively a scholarship.

Lively averaged 15.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.3 steals per game during her sophomore season at Tipton, which finished 18-5 and advanced to the Class 2A semistate.

UE women offer 2016 point guard

The University of Evansville women’s basketball program has reportedly offered a scholarship to Macie Lively, a Class of 2016 point guard from Tipton (Indiana) High School.

Here is a tweet from Lively posted on Aug. 22:

UE women’s basketball signs left-handed shooting guard

University of Evansville women’s basketball coach Oties Epps announced his sixth offseason signing Thursday in Kenyia Johnson, a 5-foot-8 shooting guard from Fleming Island High School in Orange Park, Florida. The left-handed slasher will join the Aces this fall.

During three years as a varsity starter, Johnson rewrote the Fleming Island record books. She now holds the career records for points (1,206), assists (242), steals (274), blocked shots (140) and rebounds (407).

As a senior, she averaged 17.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.1 steals, 3.4 assists and 2.1 blocks. She also shot 49.6 percent from the field.

Here are some quotes on Johnson signing with UE. The consensus seems to be that she’s athletic and good at driving to the basket.

Johnson, on why she chose UE: “The coaching staff, they rubbed off really nice. They were really cool people. The team all texted me and congratulated me and was really welcoming. I took a tour of it and I just liked it, the area. It just seemed like the college I wanted to go to.”

Johnson, on her style of play: “I’m a 1, 2 and 3 guard and I usually just play either one of those positions. I’m pretty explosive; I like to play with a lot of energy on the court. I’m a dominant left-hander and I like taking the ball to the basket.”

UE head coach Oties Epps:  “Kenyia is a well-rounded player and is an explosive athlete on both sides of the ball. She excels in the open court and she has the unique ability to get to the rim and finish. We anticipate Kenyia having an immediate impact within our program both on and off the court.”

Her high school head coach, Kim Pereia:She’s a good ballhander. She kind of played the two guard for us because we already had someone at point, but she’s very much a dribble-penetrator.”

“She makes pretty good decisions with the ball and she’s not afraid to take it to the basket. She’s very, very athletic. Physically, she looks good — strong and fast.”



Postgame thoughts with Loyola women’s head coach Sheryl Swoopes

Sheryl Swoopes

Sheryl Swoopes

Loyola’s first Missouri Valley Conference game didn’t go how it wanted, but with a first-year head coach entering a brand new conference, things will naturally be tough. The Ramblers dropped a 75-57 contest Thursday night to Evansville at the Ford Center. I caught up with Ramblers head coach Sheryl Swoopes after the game to get her thoughts on her first Valley game and how she envisions her first season.

Q: That wasn’t how you wanted your first MVC game to go, but how was it?

Swoopes: We talked a lot about joining a new conference and starting a new conference and making an first impression because you only get one time to do that. It’s unfortunate we didn’t play the way we wanted to play nor the way we’re capable of playing. I think for the girls, it was good to get the first one out of the way. They were definitely nervous for a lot of reasons. I think any time you join a new conference, people are going to be watching you, even though I don’t feel there’s a lot of pressure on us. I don’t think there’s a lot of expectations on us this year, but you always want to go out and play well and have a great performance. Unfortunately we came up short (Thursday night).”

Q: You mentioned expectations, but nobody really knows about Loyola. It’s kind of a new experience for everybody, right?

Swoopes: Absolutely. Being the new team joining the league, all the teams are trying to get to know who we are and what we’re going to do, and vice versa — we have to do the same thing. My biggest thing for the team is ‘let’s go out and play hard; the effort is always going to be there.’ My biggest frustration was the effort. I feel like there were moments where the effort was there, and there were moments where we got tired or felt sorry for ourselves and let up. … The good thing about this conference is we don’t have time to sulk and deal with this loss. We’re on the road (Thursday night) and have another game Saturday, and hopefully we’ll bounce back.

Q: You travel to Carbondale to take on Southern Illinois, but will it be good to get back home to play a conference game?

Swoopes: It’s always good to play at home, but if you’re going to make some noise and compete and eventually want to be one of those elite teams and win championships, you have to win games on the road. It’s a lot harder on the road — you’re battling the other team, the fans. We’re very young; we’re a young team, and we’re learning things. It was good to get this one under our belt. I think they have a feel what everything’s about, what the valley’s about. It’s conference time; it’s one of those things where you have to step up and what happened in preseason doesn’t really matter. This is a completely different season — everybody’s going to come out to play, everybody feels like there’s something to prove. We’re no different than that.

Q: Will it be easier facing teams the second time around?

Swoopes: I hope so. We know there are a lot of things we can learn from this game. There are players that definitely know they didn’t play up to their potential, didn’t compete. There are also players that I was very pleased with — Troy Hambric and Becca Smith. I thought the two of them really came out and played hard.

Q: Troy had 26 points and 10 rebounds. Was she your bright spot (Thursday) night?

Swoopes: I think with the team last year and what they did in the Horizon League, everybody really talked about what Simone Law and Taylor Johnson did. Nobody really paid much attention to Troy. After this game, I can probably guarantee you everybody in the Valley is going to know who Troy Hambric is. She’s a senior, she wants to go out on top. She’s a competitor, she’s a fighter, no matter what the score is, she’s going to go out and going to play hard and leave everything out on the floor.

UE women’s basketball breakdown

Happy college basketball season opener! The 2013-14 season gets underway tonight, so for both the UE men’s and women’s season openers, I’m putting out a positional breakdown for each of the squads.

The Aces women get underway at the Ford Center tonight at 7 p.m. against Eastern Illinois, so here’s the position-by-position breakdown for the women’s team.

2013-14 UE women's basketball team

2013-14 UE women’s basketball team

POINT GUARD: Junior Kat Taylor runs the offense for the Aces, and according to head coach Oties Epps, she’s done a “complete 180” from last season. With the majority of the offense lost to graduation, Taylor will bear a bit more of the offensive burden. She’s been working on slashing to the basket in addition to running UE’s fast-paced offense. Taylor will be flanked with freshmen Dakota Weatherford and Paris McLeod, who both can shoot the ball and play lockdown defense.

SHOOTING GUARD: The Aces are just waiting for Khristian Hart to return from her ACL injury, and when she does, she’ll be the star of the backcourt. Hart averaged 13.6 points per game last season before she went down, and she’ll be expected to do the same this year. UE also has sophomore Laura Friday, who started a handful of games last season, and freshmen Kenzie Gustin and Sara Dickey. Dickey shone in the preseason game against the Screaming Eagles, scoring 19 points, and is one of the team’s most athletic players.

FORWARD: Though the team as a whole is very young, the forward position may be the most inexperienced bunch. The Aces have two freshmen, Sasha Robinson and Caitlyn Russell, and just one senior, Katie Ellerson, who hasn’t see much court time in her career. Robinson started the exhibition against USI and Ellerson came off the bench and added 11 points, so this group will get some good experience this season.

CENTER: Though there’s not really such a position as a center in women’s basketball, senior Miranda Liles and junior Mallory Ladd are as close as UE gets. Ladd gets it done in the paint, as seen by her 21-point, 11-rebound effort against Southern Indiana and Liles, who missed the exhibition, is one of the most experienced rebounders on the team. The duo will likely share time at the ‘5’ position while the rest of the post players rotate at the ‘4.’

From MVC Media Day: Panelist perspectives

During the MVC media day luncheon, the Valley brought in a panel of college basketball experts to discuss some hot topics in today’s game.

The panelists discussed some of today's hot topics in college basketball at Missouri Valley media day at Loyola on Wednesday

The panelists discussed some of today’s hot topics in college basketball at Missouri Valley media day at Loyola on Wednesday

CBS’ Jerry Palm, Big Ten Network’s Stephen Bardo, ESPN’s Debbie Antonelli, and Mark Adams joined MVC head coaches Gregg Marshall and Tanya Warren on the panel, discussing scheduling, the state of the Valley, and the new rules, among other topics.

On the new rules
Marshall: “We’ve tried to call fouls in practice with hand-checking and body checking, and bumping cutters and anytime you set an illegal screen. The emphasis is freedom of movement. I must say I’m not a very good referee, but I try to blow the whistle when I see it in practice. Other than that, I guess you live and learn. We had a scrimmage against Baylor and they shot 23 free throws in a 20-minute session. That’s a lot. … In the interim, we’re just trying to teach our guys to play good, solid, man-to-man defense, show their hands, and not be excessive with the body contact.”

Warren: “I am very concerned. We had a closed scrimmage on Saturday and each team shot over 30 free throws. We have to be able to adapt.”

Adams: “Why legislate common sense? When you legislate common sense, you turn into an idiocracy, and that’s what we have in college basketball right now. … I think we should give the game back to the referees and let them use their good judgment.”

On the great deal of conference realignment
Palm: “Conference realignment, in terms of headline-shaking conference realignment, is probably done. But if you go back in college basketball, every year somebody’s in a new conference. There are always changes. … Conferences are going to start adding more conference games, and that means fewer non-conference games, which makes it harder to compare teams from different leagues.”

Bardo: “At the larger level, I think we’re done with the movement, but not at other levels.”

On the state of the Missouri Valley 
Warren: “On the women’s side, we were consistently in the top-nine RPI out of 31 conferences, which would put us four or five against non-BCS conferences. We have great teachers of the game who are committed to developing the young people both on and off the floor, we have phenomenal facilities, we have great education and we’re consistently getting four to five teams in postseason play every year.”

Antonelli: “When I think of the MVC, I think of the branding that (commissioner) Doug Elgin and his staff have put on the league. … It’s going to be really important whatever branding and marketing strategies you put together, as long as the product remains good — and the product has always been good in the Missouri Valley — good things are ahead. … It’s a great league with good talent, with excellent teacher and coaches. Last year, getting multiple bids in the NCAA Tournament was absolutely huge.”

On the difficulty and unfairness of non-conference scheduling
Marshall: “We’ve tried — because of the RPI and because of where we are right now as a program — to schedule the absolute best teams that we can get o play us. We put the line out there to any BCS school that we can.”

Palm: “The Valley has done a good job of finding ways to schedule themselves opportunities to become an at-large team in the NCAA Tournament. Scheduling is as much art as it is science. You can schedule for the RPI, but you have to know your own team, you have to know the quality of your opponents — what they’re going to be like next year, not now — and that’s hard. … You’re better off playing the best teams that you can beat, whatever level your program is at, and let the chips fall as they may.”

Adams: “The system we use to evaluate teams is patently unfair. How do we fix it? We throw away all the records from November, December — they don’t count towards the computer rankings. We set up 16 sites, where we invite 20-plus teams to those 16 sites, they play between Christmas and New Years, they play it out, that way we get an opportunity to evaluate every program I the country and where they fit going into January. Those 16 winners, I think they deserve automatic bids.”

On the progression of the women’s game
Antonelli: “Basic economic theory. Four “p’s”: product, price, promotion, and place. On the women’s side, we spend too much time on the price, promotion, and place. We need to work on the product. That’s why the rules are in place, because we need a free-flowing offensive game to showcase the great skillset that we have. If the game can be more offensive-minded, all the other things will fall into place. If the product is good, it doesn’t matter the price, promotion, or place.”

From MVC Media Day: Notes, quotes, and thoughts on the MVC preseason polls

UPDATED: The men’s and women’s preseason all-MVC teams were released Wednesday morning in preparation for MVC media day at Loyola University’s Gentile Arena. Below is a rundown of the poll, preseason all-conference teams, and some thoughts and observations from around the league.

The UE men’s squad was picked to finish sixth in the conference, finishing with 186 points in the poll, ahead of Illinois State and behind Bradley. The pick seems just about right for the Aces, who are sporting a very young, athletic team this season. Wichita State is the favorite to win the conference, receiving all 40 first-place votes.

The entire preseason poll is as follows:

1. Wichita State (40) 400
2. Indian State 352
3. Northern Iowa 318
4. Missouri State 258
5. Bradley 244
6. Evansville 186
7. Illinois State 139
8. Southern Illinois 123
9. Loyola 95
10. Drake 85

Coaches and players from around the conference gave the Shockers the respect they deserve after a great NCAA Tournament run, but also think the conference is going to be as tough as it has in years past (which it probably will).

Dan Muller, Illinois State head coach: “Wichita State deserves it, first of all. Of course their success last year, They’ve got some returners who are really good, but until you beat them, they deserve it. I think Indiana State is going to be really good this year — they only lost one player to a transfer, they’ve got some really good kids coming in that are extremely talented. The rest of us have so many new guys it’s hard to know who’s going to be good. There’s not a team in this league that didn’t lose significant starters.”

Walt Lemon, Jr., Bradley senior guard: “I don’t see it as Wichita State versus everybody, I see it as Bradley versus everybody. I think it’s us against the world. People have their own opinion of what they want to pick us, but we have to show up on the court. If you pick us last, we’re still going to go out and play hard and try to win every game. I just see it as a sign of picking us as an underdog as usual.”

The biggest surprise was probably SIU picked to finish eighth after a 5-12 MVC finish and a 14-17 season, and head coach Barry Hinson was not shy with saying how he felt about that:

“I was really surprised. I really want to smoke what those guys were smoking who picked us above 10th. You have one returning starter and you finish 10the and you’re in last place in virtually every category statistically, and somebody picks us better than 10th.”

On a more serious note…

“I think it shows several things. I think it shows the legacy of SIU, of what SIU did in the 2000s, which I’m happy about. We have to earn it, it’s not given, but it’ll be interesting to see what we do. I like our guys.”

The preseason all-MVC included seven players instead of the typical five, most likely due to ties in voting. Here are all seven honorees:

Ron Baker, Wichita State
Cleanthony Early, WSU
Desmar Jackson, Southern Illinois
Walt Lemon, Jr., Bradley
Marcus Marshall, Missouri State
Jake Odum, Indiana State
Seth Tuttle, Northern Iowa
POY: Early

The Aces women team was picked to finish ninth in the MVC, earning 104 points in the ballot, ahead of Southern Illinois and behind Illinois State. Indiana State was the favorite to win and got a majority of the first-place votes. Wichita State and Loyola also received first-place votes.

The poll:

1. Indiana State (26) 378
2. Wichita State (13) 360
3. Northern Iowa 259
4. Drake 221
5. Missouri State 216
6. Loyola (1) 211
7. Bradley 194
8. Illinois State 166
9. Evansville 104
10. Southern Illinois 91

Of course the Sycamores and Shockers are going to be the top two teams heading into this season, each led by two of the best players in the conference. Wichita State is coming off of its best season in program history with its first-ever NCAA Tournament bid, and Indiana State is coming off a WNIT appearance.

What might be shocking, though, is the Ramblers receiving a first-place vote. Loyola finished third in the Horizon League last season and hired former WNBA player Sheryl Swoopes as head coach in April. The Ramblers also have Simone Law, a preseason all-MVC pick, who was a first-team all-Horizon honoree last year.

Swoopes: “The competition in the Valley, anybody can beat anybody on any night. From top to bottom, the teams are pretty good, the players are good, the coaches are good. I do think adding Loyola into the Valley, being in Chicago — it’s a media market, it’s a sport city — I do think us joining the valley will strengthen the quality of play, the competition.”

The preseason all-conference team for the women is as follows:

Kyndal Clark, Drake
Alex Harden, WSU
Simone Law, Loyola
Cartaesha Macklin, SIU
Anna Munn, ISU
POY: Harden

Men’s and women’s basketball preseason ballots

Basketball season is (finally) right around the corner, so here’s a rundown of my MVC preseason ballots.

For the men’s side, the top four spots were pretty clear; then it turns difficult. Though this is my first year covering the Valley, I have just as good a guess as any picking spots 5-8 in the conference. So without further ado, here’s my ballot:

1. Wichita State
2. Indiana State
3. Northern Iowa
4. Missouri State
5. Bradley
6. Evansville
7. Illinois State
8. Loyola
9. Drake
10. Southern Illinois

Wichita State is the obvious favorite for many reasons I need not list here, but the Sycamores and Panthers are contenders, too. Jake Odum for ISU is a playmaker in the backcourt and UNI brings back two starters and most of its bench. Don’t count out the Bears, though — I think sophomore guard Marcus Marshall will have a fantastic season after a good rookie campaign.

Bradley, Evansville, Illinois State and Loyola all have questions to answer, and any of those squads could finish in a variety of ways. Walt Lemon Jr. will be the floor leader for the Braves, the Aces will have to find a replacement (or two or three) for Colt Ryan, the Redbirds have to replace Jackie Carmichael, and no MVC team really knows much about the Ramblers, so they could be a surprise.

The Bulldogs and the Salukis could also be surprises, but first-year head coach Ray Giacoletti will have a tough task on his hand turning the program around and Southern Illinois will probably have another down year.

Also part of the poll is the Preseason All-Conference team and Player of the Year. My picks are as follows (in alphabetical order):

1. Cleanthony Early, Wichita State
2. Walt Lemon Jr., Bradley
3. Marcus Marshall, Missouri State
4. Jake Odum, Indiana State
5. Seth Tuttle, Northern Iowa

POY: Cleanthony Early

If Early wasn’t on NBA scouts’ radars after last year’s Final Four run, he certainly will be after this season — the senior is going to dominate the paint just as he did last season.


On the women’s side, things were difficult, too. Here’s my preseason ballot:

1. Indiana State
2. Wichita State
3. Loyola
4. Northern Iowa
5. Illinois State
6. Bradley
7. Evansville
8. Drake
9. Missouri State
10. Southern Illinois

Anna Munn is going to lead a Sycamore offense that returns four starters from last year’s WNIT team, which is why I picked ISU for the top spot. The Shockers lost four starters from last year’s NCAA Tournament team, but I think they should still field a strong squad.

The Ramblers also return four starters from last year’s team, and Sheryl Swoopes will have success in her first year at the helm. Northern Iowa and Illinois State don’t have a single major scorer returning this season, but that could be beneficial if multiple players can develop into threats.

The Braves are full of upperclassmen, which is why they’ll have a good year after losing three of last year’s starters and the Aces should have a healthy Khristian Hart and Mallory Ladd for the start of MVC play. Drake, Missouri State and Southern Illinois round out the bottom of the conference, but any of those teams could be surprises.

A Preseason All-Conference team and Player of the Year was also included on the women’s side, so here you go (in alphabetical order):

1. Kyndal Clark, Drake
2. Alex Harden, Wichita State
3. Khristian Hart, Evansville
4. Simone Law, Loyola
5. Anna Munn, Indiana State

POY: Anna Munn

Munn should have another great season, but I believe any of the five players I selected could have excellent years. Clark could help pace the Bulldogs to exceed expectations; Harden — the lone returning starter for the Shockers — should be the obvious go-to player for WSU; Hart, if fully recovered from an ACL tear, can pair up with Ladd to be the dynamic duo the Aces need on offense; and Law dominated the post in the Horizon League last season.

Barlow acclimates to new role at UE

New women’s basketball assistant coach Ashley Barlow ended up at the University of Evansville almost by accident.

Barlow saw something on Twitter about the opening and was curious, so she texted FahKara Malone — a current assistant and one of her AAU teammates in high school — about it.

“I thought she filled the opening,” Barlow said of Malone’s promotion earlier this summer. “She texted me and was like, ‘Nicki (Motto), she left, but would you want me to throw your name out there?’ And I was like, ‘yeah whatever.’”

Barlow didn’t really think much of it and Malone told her not to worry.

But days later, head coach Oties Epps wanted her resume and cover letter. Thirty minutes after she sent her materials, Barlow had an interview scheduled.

“I got interviewed on a Thursday, accepted on a Monday,” Barlow said. “Wednesday I was down here looking at apartments, and then Monday — not the next Monday, but a full week (later) — I was down here starting.”

It was a quick turnaround, but for a program that brought in two new staff members — Malone and Director of Operations Doug Rogers — Barlow’s hire put the final piece in place.

“It’s been a great change for us,” Epps said. “One of the things we wanted to do with the change is bring in more young energy. I think that what we’re trying to do with our program, we need people that are really passionate and want to invest a lot of energy and effort into developing our kids and recruiting and long nights. I think we have that.

“Ashley, she fits right in — good personality, worker, wants to be around the girls, so it’s been good.”

Barlow feels the same about the Aces’ staff. She was particularly excited about reuniting with Malone and believes the staff is putting the program on the track to success.

And the Indianapolis native has an impressive skillset she brings to the staff. In addition to two years as an assistant at IUPUI, Barlow was a standout at Notre Dame, becoming the first Fighting Irish basketball player to eclipse 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 250 assists and 250 steals in a career. She also played professionally overseas for a year in Israel.

Barlow officially met the entire team during Tuesday’s team meeting, and though almost half the squad is freshmen, Barlow still feels like the newest member.

“It was exciting,” she said. “Everybody seemed like they were excited to get started again. Everybody, actually, has worked out because of the new rule this summer, so I guess I’m the newbie.”

Updates: Indiana All-Stars vs. Kentucky

The Indiana All-Stars, comprised of UE signee Blake Simmons on the boys’ side and Dakota Weatherford for the girls’ team, play as part of a doubleheader tonight against their Kentucky counterparts at Freedom Hall in Louisville.

I’ll be at both games — the girls play at 4:30 p.m. and the boys will follow around 6:30 p.m. — updating the future Aces’ results. Refresh periodically or follow on Twitter (@ECP_Lintner).

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