College Hoops In Polk Ready To Heat Up

Polk college basketball fans can enjoy some great college action as our local teams head into conference play.

With two nationally-ranked men’s teams and a nationally-ranked women’s team in Polk, it will be fun to watch as teams battle for conference supremacy and individual honors.

“I think it’s a great time for Polk County college basketball,” said Southeastern men’s coach John Dunlap. “I can’t wait for this semester to start.”

The Florida Southern women’s team is ranked 22nd in NCAA Division II action. Senior forward Michaela Hawley leads the Sunshine State Conference in three categories. Hawley is a two-time conference Player of the Week. Lamberg has also earned the honor.

The Mocs won six games in a row after their season-opening loss. They are looking to defend their conference championship and earn their second consecutive NCAA tournament bid.

The Florida Southern men, led by junior forward Brett Bailey, are also in the hunt. Bailey is a two-time conference Player of the Week. Don’t miss freshman Kevin Capers (Lake Wales). Capers is second in scoring for the Mocs (14.5 ppg).

The Sun Conference, an NAIA Division II organization, features Southeastern, Webber International and Warner universities battling to earn the conference’s only automatic bid to the NAIA tournament or stay in the top 25 for a chance at an at-large bid. Throw in No. 1 ranked Northwood University and emerging St. Thomas and it’s on.

In fact, the NAIA’s Sun Conference record against NCAA Division II teams from the Sunshine State Conference is 10-8.

The surprising Southeastern University men’s team is ranked for the first time in the NAIA at No. 15.

The Warner University men’s team peaked at No. 10 in the NAIA rankings before a loss to Southeastern. Three-time Sun Conference Player of the Week Malcolm Campbell leads the balanced Royals.

Check out Shawnelle Campbell on the women’s side for Warner. The senior guard from Portland, Oregon is a three-time conference Player of the Week. She’s averaging 21 points and six rebounds a game. She also has 24 steals and 40 assists in 13 games for the Royals.

The Polk State College men received votes in the latest state poll among junior colleges and are looking to defend their fifth Suncoast Conference title under coach Matt Furjanic.

The defensive-minded Eagles have won one game this season against six ranked opponents.

While hampered with some injuries, their top player Robert Gilchrist, who is headed for FSU next fall, is expected to return from an ankle sprain Saturday against Broward at home. Sidney Sanders is one of the most exciting players in the Suncoast Conference.

While the Webber International University men’s team (5-5) is not ranked, the Warriors managed to stay in step with NAIA Division I defending national champion Pikeville, falling 72-71 in Dec. 30.

Even the Webber women, under new coach Grady Morrell, have played a challenging schedule against several NCAA Division II opponents.

With three NAIA Division II men’s teams in the county, fans should get plenty of opportunities to see the top NAIA team in the country in Northwood University. The Seahawks are coached by former Villanova head coach Rollie Massimino. Massimino won the NCAA national title in 1985. He’s continued with the Seahawks, taking them to the national tournament in four of their six years under his watch.

Former Polk star Masse Doumbe is starting for the Seahawks.

Catch Seahawk senior All American Jonathan Dunn while he’s in town. Dunn recently scored his 1,000 point.

The Seahawks travel to Warner Jan. 25, Southeastern Jan. 28 and Webber Feb. 6. All games are at 7 p.m.

Plus, St. Thomas University could sneak in the Sun Conference hunt.  The Sailfish have won eight in a row including victories over NCAA Division II Barry, Lynn and Palm Beach Atlantic.


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