There’s no doubt, the month of March belongs to college basketball.
It’s time to start thinking about your brackets for the NCAA Tournament and seeing if you can be the genius to pick the big upset. I’m sure the people who picked No. 15 Santa Clara and a guard named Steve Nash to knock off No. 2 Arizona back in 1993 still brag about their smarts.
But before we get frenzied over selecting this year’s sexy upset pick, I thought I could recognize some of our local ballers who are performing on the Division I scene and even a couple D-II guys that made their presences felt this season. Who knows, maybe one of them could be an underdog hero.
Conference tournaments are ready to start kicking off. Some of the smaller leagues start this weekend. The Ohio Valley Conference kicks off in Nashville on Saturday, while the Missouri Valley Conference began on Thursday at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
Unfortunately for Alton High products Carlos Anderson (SIUE) and JaQuail Townser (Jacksonville State), their teams didn’t qualify for the OVC Tournament.
Anderson was a freshman for the Cougars (6-22) and jumped onto the collegiate scene in style this year. He was second on the team, averaging 10.3 points per game. He started all 28 games and averaged 31.5 minutes per game.
The future looks bright for Anderson at SIUE. He was playing under first-year head coach Jon Harris, a 1998 Edwardsville High grad. Edwardsville products Josh White (junior) and Tre Harris (redshirt sophomore) join Anderson on the team.
Tre Harris sat out this season after transferring from Kansas State, while White averaged 4.3 ppg. and 13.3 minutes per game in limited action. Jon Harris hopes to get his Cougars percolating in ‘16-17.
Townser wrapped up his career with the Gamecocks. He surpassed 1,000 career points for his collegiate career this season. He spent two years at Southwestern Illinois College before going to Jacksonville State.
Townser’s Gamecocks were 8-23 on the season, missing the OVC Tournament despite his 9.5 ppg. and 107 assists. He was fourth on the team in scoring and first in dishing out passes. He played 30 games, starting 29 and averaging 29.3 minutes per game.
Marquette Catholic grad Jake Coddington didn’t log the individual minutes that Anderson and Townser did, but the junior at Ole Miss enjoyed a little more team success.
The Rebels entered the week at 18-11 and delve into the Southeastern Conference Tournament on March 9.
Coddington walked on this season and had played in 12 games as of Monday, averaging 0.4 ppg and 2.1 mpg. He is 2 of 2 from 2-point land and 1 of 1 from beyond the arc in limited action.
Another Marquette product, Deion Lavender, is redshirting with the University of Alabama-Birmingham (UAB) but watching his Blazers (24-5) enjoy a pretty good campaign. They enter the Conference USA Tournament on March 8.
The team Lavender played his freshman season with, the Southern Illinois Salukis, are ready to get things going in the MVC Tournament. The Salukis open with Northern Iowa on Friday.
Edwardsville grad Armon Fletcher (4.9 ppg) is a redshirt freshman for SIUC (22-9). Northern Iowa (19-12) is directed by point guard Wes Washpun (14.1 ppg), the team’s leading scorer and son of former Alton High standout Troy Washpun.
Another Edwardsville grad, Shawn Roundtree, was a part of the MVC Tournament. His Missouri State squad faced Drake on Thursday at Scottrade Center. Roundtree averages 3.0 ppg in limited action.
Drake has Cahokia grad C.J. Rivers and will be the home of Alton High grad D’Antae McMurray next season. McMurray, finishing up his sophomore season at SWIC, announced recently he would attend Drake.
There are also other local standouts like Belleville East grad Darreon Reddick at Tennessee State (20-9) in the OVC Tournament. Reddick averages 5.8 ppg and 23.5 mpg for TSU.
Another former Lancer, Malcolm Hill, is the top dog as a junior for the Fighting Illini. Hill (18.2 ppg.) leads Illinois (13-16) in scoring, assists (3.4 per game) and blocks (15). The Big Ten Tournament starts March 9.
O’Fallon grad Roosevelt Jones stars at Butler as a redshirt senior. Jones is third on the team at 14.1 ppg. and first in rebounds (6.8) and assists (4.6). Butler (19-9) enters the Big East Tournament March 9.
Edwardsville grad Garret Covington had a stellar junior campaign at Western Illinois (10-17). Unfortunately, the Leathernecks missed the Summit Conference Tournament, despite knocking off Wisconsin early in the season. Covington led the team with 17.9 ppg.
On the D-II scene a pair of Greater Alton standouts enjoyed respectable campaigns.
Hunter Reine transferred to the University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL) for his junior season after two years at SWIC. Reine was fourth on the Tritons with 7.9 ppg. and led them with 4.8 rebounds per game.
Roxana’s all-time leading scorer played in 27 games, starting 12 of them. UMSL (12-16) was knocked out of the Great Lakes Valley Conference Tournament in the first round, ending its season.
Civic Memorial grad Jakob Lowrance is a freshman at Central Missouri of the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association. Lowrance is fourth on the team, scoring 8.5 ppg. and third in rebounds at 3.5 per clip. He’s also shooting 49 percent from 3-point land (26 of 53).
The Mules lost in the MIAA Tournament on Tuesday to Central Oklahoma, ending their season.
Alton High’s all-time leading scorer Kavon Lacey is in the coaching ranks. He is the director of basketball operations at Evansville for coach Marty Simmons, the former head coach at SIUE. Lennox Forrester, another former head coach at SIUE, is an assistant for the Purple Aces (23-8). They all can be seen at the MVC Tournament this weekend in St. Louis.
Former AHS assistant coach Jamall Walker is an assistant coach for the Fighting Illini, too. Walker assisted Mike Brey on the 2000-01 Redbirds, which advanced to the Class AA state tournament.
So look for some locals when you start getting frenzied for March Madness.