Springfield, Mo. -- Here is everything you need to know about the Drury Panthers heading into the 2012-13 season.
Top Storylines: The Drury Panthers are trying to make the most of their final season with the All-Great Lakes Valley Conference senior backcourt of Alex Hall and Brandon Lockhart. The pair enter their fourth season together as starters, and have combined to lead DU to a 63-26 record and two NCAA-II tournament appearances in their time together entering Saturday night’s regular season opener vs. University of the Ozarks.
The Lady Panthers, who open Tuesday night against Southwest Baptist, are seeking their 11th straight trip to the NCAA-II Tournament, and with the potent backcourt of senior Katie Pritchard and junior Bethanie Funderburk, are trying to get back to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2007. Both were First Team All-GLVC selections last season; Funderburk averaged a team-high 15.5 points, while Pritchard led the nation in 3-point FG percentage (.492) last season for the second time in her career.
Where They’re Picked: The Panthers, 17-11 overall last year, are predicted for a close second-place finish in the GLVC West behind Missouri-St. Louis; the Lady Panthers, 20-8 overall a season ago, are the favorites to win the West title over top competitors Maryville and Quincy. Both teams are in the “Others Receiving Votes” category of the national Top 25 preseason polls.
The Guys Calling The Shots: Steve Hesser is entering his ninth season as head coach of the Panthers, and his 164-71 record includes five NCAA-II Tournament appearances. Steve Harold is going into Year Six as the Lady Panthers’ boss and has a 115-39 mark in his five seasons at DU and is 377-146 in his overall coaching career, which included his first 12 seasons at Glenville (W. Va.) State.
Can’t-Miss Dates At The O’: For both teams, it all starts with the Bank of Bolivar Highway 13 Catfight rivalry games with Southwest Baptist on Nov. 13 at The O’Reilly Center, the February 2 “Overflow The O’ “ games vs. Rockhurst and the February 9 Homecoming contest against Maryville.
Also for the Panthers, their Thanksgiving Classic games against top D-II foes Central Oklahoma and Arkansas Tech at The O’ (Nov. 23-24) and visits from Quincy (Jan. 19) and UMSL (Feb. 7); and for the Lady Panthers, matchups with Missouri S & T (December 6), Wisconsin-Parkside (Jan. 5) and Quincy (Jan. 19).
And A Freebie: For the November 23,, day-after-Thanksgiving Panthers game vs. Central Oklahoma (3:15 p.m.) and Lady Panthers vs. Northwestern Oklahoma State (5:30 p.m.), all fans will be admitted at no charge, a new “Free Friday!” promotion to introduce area hoops fans to Drury Basketball at The O’. Not interested in “Black Friday” shopping? Load up the kids, the in-laws and the relatives and watch some quality hoops that day. GLVC West preseason favorite UMSL will play Arkansas Tech in the men’s opener at 1 p.m., and Union (Tenn.) will take on GLVC defending champion Maryville at 7:45 that evening as well.
Stats You Should Know: Hall, a former Kickapoo standout, has 264 career 3-pointers and needs 13 to catch current assistant coach Steven Gum for second place and only 88 to move past former Panthers great Matt Miller (351) to become Drury’s all-time trey king. Hall enters the season No. 15 on the DU scoring list with 1,489 points. Lonnie Holmes is the all-time leader with 2341 points.
On the Lady Panthers’ side, Katie Pritchard has 1,147 points and ranks ninth on the all-time list (Amanda Newton leads at 1,185), and with 201 made 3-pointers, needs just 13 to move past Lindsay Ballweg (213) as DU’s career leader. Pritchard has hit an amazing .456 percent of her 3-point tries for her Lady Panthers career, also a team record. Barring injury, Funderburk will eclipse the 1,000-point barrier, ranking 13th on the all-time Drury charts with 911 points coming into this season.
Secret Weapons: The Panthers will likely go as far as 6-6 junior Ian Carter takes them. Carter averaged 9.4 points and 5.5 rebounds on the season a year ago, was a beast for DU down the stretch for a team that won eight of its 11 games, including a first-round GLVC tourney game at Quincy. Sophomore forward Cameron Adams is their most explosive player, and had 19 points and 12 rebounds in just 16 minutes of court time in DU’s lone exhibition game, a 104-60 win over Hillsdale Baptist.
The Lady Panthers, likewise, will need the sophomore Twin Towers (Sanayika Shields and Emilie Gray) and junior Kylie Williamson to handle the inside game like veterans, while sophomore guards Lauren McCurry and Shelby White will play much bigger roles this season. The 6-2 Gray – an NCAA-II national high jump qualifier for DU Track last spring - and 6-1 Shields, the daughter of former Kansas City Chiefs great Will Shields, were blocked for extensive playing time by a very deep bench last season, but will get ample chances to shine this winter for DU.
Unsung Heroes: For the Panthers, senior forward Teddy Simniok handles a large chunk of the rugged work inside with his rebounding and defense, and sophomore guard Drake Patterson can be a game-breaker from 3-point range when he’s hot. The Lady Panthers enter their fourth season of senior Abby Bracker (Nixa HS) doing the dirty work, grabbing six boards a game, playing solid defense and providing strong leadership by example.
Newcomers To Watch: The Panthers are excited about two in particular – freshman Kameron Bundy, an ultra-athletic guard from Nixa, and junior forward Mael Amenyedzi, whose 6-6 frame packs some power and can handle the inside pounding. For the Lady Panthers, 6-1 freshman Kalea Parks could have an impact at her new small forward position, while senior one-year transfer (Chadron State) point guard Marla Munsen steps in to fill an immediate need running the offense while Consuelo Owen’s decision not to return (family illness).
The Bottom Line: If both DU squads develop complimentary offensive threats to their extremely talented backcourts – particularly in the paint – the Panthers and Lady Panthers will likely both be challenging for GLVC titles once again, and headed to NCAA-II regionals come early March.