PILOTS ARE THE PRE-SEASON FAVORITE IN THE RRAC
October 23, 2013
SHREVEPORT, La. - The LSU Shreveport Pilots are coming off one of their better years in the program's history, having made it to the Fab Four back in March. This season the bar is set high as the Pilots were chosen as the no. 1 ranking by the coaches of the Red River Athletic Conference in the RRAC preseason poll.
Head Coach Kyle Blankenship enters his second season at the helm of the Pilots and is eager to begin the season but he knows it won't be easy to claim the regular season trophy. Blankenship states that "winning a conference championship is definitely one of our goals. It is every year. I think only one preseason favorite has won the conference title since we entered the RRAC, so we will have our work cut out for us. Last year was special. If we could sign up right now for another trip to the Fab Four, we'd do it! The experience from it all definitely has us hungry to try and get back to the National Tournament again this season."
The 2013-14 RRAC schedule will have a new look with the departures of Texas Wesleyan and Southwestern Assemblies of God but Coach Blankenship says that will not have much of a factor in making the schedule any easier. "Obviously losing Texas Wesleyan and SAGU lightens up the conference schedule by four total games, but it doesn't make the other 18 conference games any easier. Our league has gotten a lot stronger from top to bottom over the past few years, and there are enough really good basketball teams still remaining in the Red River for us to be considered a very tough league."
Coach Blankenship and his Pilots made the magical run at the NAIA National Tournament last season but they were a team that almost did not get to make the trip as they learned what it takes to get to Kansas City. "We learned that there is a fine line between who gets to go to the National Tournament and who stays home. We were one more regular season loss away from potentially not making it to Kansas City last year."
The Pilots learned that every game matters and every shot counts and they won't take any game lightly. "We talk about a couple of close wins late in the season that could have changed everything for us if we would have come out on the other end. Every single regular season game is important, and our players recognizing that will help our approach to each game this season."
The Pilots return three starters, including NAIA All-American Brandon Davis, from last year's team that reached the NAIA Fab Four and finished with a No. 4 national ranking. The high-scoring Pilots led the nation in points per game last season and return three of their top four scorers. With the addition of several impact recruits, including NCAA Division 1 transfers Will Nelson (Texas A&M Corpus-Christi), Tony Freeland (Long Beach State University) and Dundrecous Nelson (Jackson State University), LSUS looks every bit of the part of a National Championship contender.
This will be the Pilots' fourth season to compete in the RRAC and they are still searching for their first regular season title after having won the regular season crown on four occasions as a member of the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference.
LSUS will begin the new season on the road in Humble, Texas, on November 1 as they meet St. Gregory's in the Small College Tip-off Classic. The next day, November 2, the Pilots will play their home opener at The Dock against Science and Arts of Oklahoma at 7:30 p.m.