Carthage, TX – The Panola College men's basketball team begins their 2016-17 campaign when they tip off the season against Louisiana Christian this upcoming Saturday. Tip-off is set for 5:00 PM in Arthur Johnson Gymnasium at Panola College. Second year Head Coach Grant McMillan is ready to build off their record breaking season last year. McMillan led the Ponies to the most wins in school history posting 24 victories and guided them to their third ever conference championship game appearance. Last year's squad featured four division one signees.
This year's team will feature five freshman, four returners, four division one transfers, and one junior college transfer. "As a staff, we spent tireless hours trying to identify the right student-athletes that wanted to buy-in to our culture. Region 14 is traditionally the toughest league in the country and we have to trust our evaluation with the 10 new faces we brought in." mentioned McMillan.
Panola's four returners made a combined 82 starts last season giving the Ponies valuable game experience which Coach McMillan did not have last season. "We had 12 new players last year. It was a new landscape for me and our program. Chan Williams-Bey made all-conference last year as a freshman. Chan and the three other returners have been in some tough environments. Having returners and their leadership is invaluable." McMillan added. Devyn Wilson, Tyonte Robertson, and Tope Arikawe are the other three returners.
Adding more experience to the roster, the Ponies signed four other sophomores and one redshirt freshman. Eric McGill, Keith Hayes, and Pernell Adgei all made starts at their respective division one schools as freshman, while KJ Byers started multiple games as a freshman at his previous junior college. Bryson Lockley sat out last season at his division one school.
"We made sure we recruited older guys. Experience is something that we wanted to emphasis. Their maturity and leadership provide us with added depth." McMillan stated. The Ponies signed two dynamic freshman in TJ Killings and Marlon Taylor. Both newcomers were highly decorated prep school players. Rounding out Panola's recruiting class are local products Christian Hammett and Larry Robinson III. Big man, Matthew Bellamy was the final piece to the Ponies recruiting class.
Panola will have 10 non-conference games before they begin Region 14 play on November the 30th against Blinn College. The Ponies will have five home games in the month of November, a luxury they did not have last season as the renovations to Arthur Johnson Gymnasium were in the finishing stages last November. Teaming up with Coach McMillan is second year assistant, Adam Blaylock.