Thursday, May 31, 2007
Texas college grabs area talent
By BARRY BURLESON
Lamar University is far away, in Beaumont, Texas, but its men’s basketball team will be counting heavily on talent from Marshall and Benton counties when taking the court in 2007-08.
New signees of the Cardinals are former Holly Springs High School teammates Kenny Dawkins and Justin Nabors. They helped lead the Hawks to back-to-back Class 3A state championships.
Already members of the Southland Conference team are Currye Todd and Lamar Sanders, who played high school basketball at H.W. Byers and Hickory Flat, respectively.
“We’re fortunate to get Dawkins and Nabors,” said head coach Steve Roccaforte, “and we’re looking forward to it. We’re ecstatic.”
One of Roccaforte’s assistant coaches is Don Skelton, former head coach at Northwest Community College. He gets the credit for recruiting the four to Beaumont, located in southeast Texas near the Louisiana line and the Gulf of Mexico.
“Coach Skelton has done an excellent job for us, and he, of course, is very familiar with Dawkins and Nabors,” he said. “And having Currye and Lamar already here helped us, too.”
Sanders (6-6, 245 lbs.) was “Newcomer of the Year” in the Southland Conference last season and led the league in rebounds.
“He had a great year,” Roccaforte said.
Todd (6-4, 190 lbs.) averaged 11 points a game and hit 37 percent of his shots from beyond the three-point circle.
“He shot the ball unbelievably for us down the stretch,” his coach said. “He has a chance to be really good next season.”
Dawkins (5-9, 155 lbs.) is a National Junior College Athletic Association second team All-American. He was also named the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference player of the year. He averaged 17 points a game this past season and was the conference champion in free throw percentage (85.6 percent).
“Kenny (Dawkins) has represented our basketball program in a first-class manner for two years,” said head coach Kelly Green. “He epitomizes what a coach desires of a student-athlete.”
Dawkins said, “I feel good about my career here. I grew up and learned a lot from Coach (Kelly) Green.
“Coach (Naylond) Hayes taught me to be a better player and a good point guard in junior high and high school at Holly Springs, and I carried that to Arizona Western. Coach Green added to my game, too.”
Dawkins said he sees that same family atmosphere at Lamar that he enjoyed at Holly High and Arizona Western.
“I visited Lamar and it’s like back home,” he said. “I feel comfortable there. I like Coach Roccaforte. He made me feel a part of their family.
“I’m excited about being reunited with my good friend Justin (Nabors). We’re going to be rooming together.”
Dawkins said he still talks to several former Holly High teammates and Coach Hayes regularly.
“That’s how I keep from getting homesick,” he said. “Coach Hayes still gives me advice.”
He also said on his trip to Beaumont he discovered the Cardinals need a point guard.
“They need someone to distribute the basketball and that’s me,” Dawkins said.
Coach Roccaforte agreed.
“There was no point guard in the nation – high school, junior college – who we felt was better for us and the way we play,” he said about Dawkins. “He’s the guy we wanted.”
Nabors (6-6, 215 lbs.) shared Region XXIII Player of the Year honors with Wesley Jones of Pearl River. He was also voted first team Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) all-state. He was most valuable player in the state all-star game and was also selected honorable mention All-American. He averaged 16.1 points and 11.2 rebounds per game. He’s sixth on Northwest’s career rebound list with 500 boards in 60 games.
“I’m real excited about being at Lamar with Kenny (Dawkins),” Nabors said. “We played together in high school, and we’re both very excited about our future.
“My coach my freshman year (Skelton) went to Lamar and that was a big factor in me going there. Plus I felt I would fit right into the program.”
Nabors said Coach Hayes advised him to go to Northwest after his tenure as a Hawk and it was the right thing to do.
“I was able to better my skills there,” he said. “It was a good experience for me.
“Going to Lamar and being farther from home will be a big adjustment, but you have to take advantage of your opportunities. I think I will get used to it.”
Lamar finished 15-17 overall last season and 8-8 in the league. The Cardinals lost in the semi-finals of their conference tournament. It’s the third straight year they’ve fell two wins short of reaching the NCAA Tournament, something they haven’t done since 2000.
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