The Three Rivers College basketball teams showed off their increased size at Raider Madness.
The first official day of the basketball season Tuesday, Raider Madness featured short scrimmages by the men’s and women’s teams, as well introductions of the players and cheerleaders, a 3-point contest, a dunk exhibition, a cheer routine, and plenty of antics by Rocky Raider at the Libla Family Sports Complex.
Both basketball teams added height and strength to their post this season. The men have a pair of centers in 7-foot-1, 190-pound freshman Mathias Ochai of Lagos, Nigeria, and 6-8, 260-pound redshirt sophomore Lydell Geffrard of New York.
The two spent much of the their 20-minute scrimmage guarding each other.
“I liked my two big guys, they did all right,” said Three Rivers men’s coach Gene Bess, who is entering his 50th season and has 1,281 wins. “I think they are projects, but they are making good progress.”
Bess added that the men’s scrimmage was typical to what he’s seen at these type of events throughout his career, which isn’t particularly a good thing.
“I didn’t see much carryover from practice,” said Bess, who called a timeout less than 4 minutes into the scrimmage. “We’ve been trying to emphasize fast break and we got very little of that. In general, we didn’t guard.”
The women, who went to the national tournament last year, added three freshmen who are 6-2 or taller in Kalyssa Hollis (Paragould, Ark.), Jamiyah Thomas (Chicago), and Brogan Jones (Little Rock, Ark.).
They’ve also got 6-1 sophomore Hannah Thurmon (Dexter) playing out on the wing, creating perpetual mismatches. During the women’s 10-minute scrimmage during Raider Madness for instance, Thurmon was mostly guarded by Neelyville alumna and 5-9 freshman Autumn Dodd.
“They shot the ball well from the outside, passed the ball better to the post than we have been, and we’re going to have a post presence this year that can play. To me, that’s a pretty good combination,” said Three Rivers women’s co-head coach Jeff Walk, who is retiring after this season.
Among the fans in attendance was Hailee Erickson, who was an All-American for the Raiders last season and is currently playing at Arkansas State.
“This is important … I still want to be able to support them as much because I know they did the same for me,” Erickson said. “They definitely have a lot more size than what we had last year, which is going to help a lot getting rebounds. Good guards, good shooters, you can never have too many of them. They are going to be pretty good this year.”
The men begin their preseason this weekend at the Mullen Joco Jamboree in Dallas, and the women host Dyersburg State at 1:30 p.m. Monday in their preseason opener. They are asking for fans to bring a white towel as a team donation.
Both programs start their regular season at home. Then men host Link Year Prep at 7 p.m., Nov. 1, and the women host Olney Central at 3 p.m., Nov. 2.
Scott Borkgren - Daily American Republic