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Women’s Basketball: Jones honored by league this time

Dan McDonald

Yolanda Jones was named to a Sun Belt Conference all-league basketball team Monday – a few months too late, according to UL women’s coach J. Kelley Hall.
Jones, the Ragin’ Cajuns’ senior forward who led the Sun Belt in rebounding and ranked third in scoring last season, was one of the first-team selections on the league’s preseason squad announced during Monday’s Media Day activities. Jones was relegated to the coaches’ second team at the end of last season.

“Those numbers should have been good enough,” Hall said. “She was pretty upset about it last year, and she’s taking it kind of personal this year. It’s a challenge to her to prove that the coaches were wrong.”

Jones’ squad was tabbed to finish third in the league’s West Division, although second and third were separated by only one point between North Texas and UL. The Cajuns actually had more first-place votes (two) than runner-up UNT (one), both well behind heavy favorite Arkansas State.
“I don’t think it’s very close on the West side,” Hall said. “I don’t think Denver and UL Monroe will finish fifth and sixth on our side. They’re too good. If they do, our side is really tough.”

ASU drew 10 of the 13 first-place votes in the West, thanks in part to a returnee class that has seven players who played in at least 27 games.

“We sort of expected it,” ASU coach Brian Boyer said of the top pick, “but we’re still plenty excited about it. It’s the first time in thirty-plus years of women’s basketball that we’ve ever been picked to win a league on the women’s side, so that’s a credit to our senior class.”

North Texas lost four starters but was still virtually dead even with the Cajuns, who have three other starters back accompanying the athletic Jones. Onna Charles, Jeanenne Colbert, Sonora Edwards and Alicia McDaniel give Hall as experienced a lineup as any team in the Sun Belt.

Middle Tennessee’s experience also was a big factor in the East selections, with the Blue Raiders returning four starters including consensus preseason Player of the Year Chrissy Givens. The senior guard was the league’s Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Tournament MVP last season in leading MTSU to the conference title.

“Like everybody else here, I know it all comes down to what you do on the floor,” said Raider coach Rick Insell. “It’s good to have recognition, but I think I’m like everybody else here in that I don’t have any idea what to expect right now.”

Joining Jones and Givens on the preseason first team were guard Jocelyn Love of Arkansas-Little Rock, center Adrianne Davie of Arkansas State and forward Crystal Kelly of Western Kentucky, which was a solid pick as runner-up in the East.

Last year’s girl power in the league was concentrated in the East, with the conference’s top three records and the three postseason representatives coming from that side (Middle in the NCAA’s, Western and Florida International in the WNIT after WKU was snubbed by the NCAA selection committee). This year, most coaches agree the new divisions are more balanced.

“The West is on the upswing,” said Boyer. “A lot of teams have a lot of experience, and that’s sort of the way that leagues in divisions go back and forth.”

Sun Belt women’s coaches preseason team

First Team

Sun Belt Women

Preseason Coaches’ Poll

As voted on by all 13 league head coaches. First place votes in parenthesis.

East Division Points

1. Middle Tennessee (9) 74

2. Western Kentucky (3) 67

3. Fla. International (1) 52

4. South Alabama 38

5. Troy 21

5. Fla. Atlantic 21

West Division Points

1. Arkansas State (10) 87

2. North Texas (1) 65

3. Louisiana (2) 64

4. Ark.-Little Rock 55

5. Denver 48

6. UL Monroe 31

7. New Orleans 14

Preseason All-Conference Team

First Team

Player of the Year – Chrissy Givens, Middle Tennessee (Sr., G), was Sun Belt Player of the Year, Tournament MVP and Defensive Player of the Year last season

Jocelyn Love, Ark.-Little Rock (Sr., G/F), holds seven UALR career records and needs 14 points to become Trojans’ all-time career scorer

Adrianne Davie, Arkansas State (Sr., C), three-time All-Sun Belt selection, ranked third in league in scoring at 15.4 and in rebounding at 9.8 last year

Yolanda Jones, Louisiana (Sr., F), Sun Belt’s Newcomer of the Year, led league in rebounding at 10.9 and was third in scoring at 18.1 but was left off All-Sun Belt first team

Crystal Kelly, Western Kentucky (Jr., F), was second in Sun Belt in scoring at 20.2 and fourth in rebounding at 8.5 last season

Second Team

Rudy Sims, Arkansas State (Sr., G); Tyesha Lowery, Denver (Sr., G); Lasma Jekabsone, Fla. International (Sr., C); Krystle Horton, Middle Tennessee (Sr., F); Whitney Woodard, South Alabama (Sr., F).

Third Team

Renee Renz, Ark.-Little Rock (So., F); Le’Della English, New Orleans (Jr., G); Talicia Sanders, North Texas (Jr., C); Laura Lee Holman, Troy (Sr., G); Tifany Zaragoza, Western Kentucky (Sr., G).

Originally published October 24, 2006