WILBURTON, Okla. – With slightly more than one month complete in their respective seasons, Eastern Oklahoma State College's men's and women's basketball teams are off to solid starts, but with plenty of room to improve.
Under the direction of first-year head coach Al Davis and with a record of 9-7 (1-1), Eastern's women's basketball team has already surpassed its win total from the 2018-2019 season.
The Eastern women started the season strong, winning their first four games and five of their first six. Despite coming up just short in several of its losses (five of Eastern's seven losses have come against Top 25 teams or teams receiving votes), Davis said he is pleased with his team's effort and overall results.
"The team has been working very hard since they arrived on campus, on the court and in the classroom as well," Davis said. "Bringing in 14 new players and no returners from last year was very challenging because everybody wants to play. Also, learning my system and how I want to play takes time as well. This first semester is about me learning my players' strengths and weaknesses, and making sure I put them in the best situation to be successful on the court."
The young team has already faced unexpected adversity. Freshman forward Jaycee Kitchell, of Hartshorne, Okla., was injured in only the second game of the season and was averaging 16 points per game and 7.5 rebounds per game prior to her injury.
Davis said other players have stepped up to fill the void Kitchell left. Freshman guard Deja Williams, of Manvel, Texas, leads the conference in steals with 42 and is fourth in scoring, averaging 15.3 points per game.
"Sophomore transfer Taryn Howard from McAlester, [Okla.,] has also stepped up for us, not just with her offense, but is doing a great job on the defensive end in our press," Davis said. "She gets a lot of steals and is very athletic for her size. She can play in the post or the wing which makes her very versatile."
Sophomore guard Kenzie Ezekiel, of Wilburton, Okla., has come off the bench in every game so far to average 13.6 points per game and is shooting more than 32 percent from three-point range. She is also fifth in the conference in three-pointers made. Davis said Ezekiel could easily be a starter, but he values her ability to come off the bench and provide a scoring boost for the team.
"Every game, we play hard for 40 minutes," Davis said. "We just sometimes come up short. I believe the second half of the season, once conference play starts back up, we will begin to all be on the same page and be able to get more wins. I believe our defense is good, but could be better. We just have to keep playing for each other, continue to play together and trust each other. We have all the tools we need to make a run in the postseason, but I will make sure we take things one game at a time."
The Eastern women will be back at home to start the spring semester as they host Redlands Community College on Monday, Jan. 6, 2020, at 5:30 P.M.
On the men's side, Scott Edgar enters his 10th season as head coach of the Eastern men's basketball team. Though the team has not had the start he would have preferred, Edgar has plenty of optimism for the future.
"This team is exciting to watch and has a lot of promise," Edgar said. "It should be very much fun to watch them in the second semester."
G'Quavious Lennox's play has been one highlight of the early season. Lennox, a sophomore guard from Hugo, Okla., was honored as the NJCAA Region II Men's Basketball Player of the Week for Nov. 25-Dec. 1. In Eastern's only game that week, Lennox scored 30 points, shot 9-13 from beyond the arc, had four assists, three rebounds and two steals.
The Eastern men will be back at home to start the spring semester as they host OKC Storm on Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020, at 3 P.M.