HANCEVILLE — For those who were familiar with the men’s basketball team at Wallace State last year, there are plenty of new faces to get to know this season as there is only one returning player from last year’s squad that spent a few weeks in the NJCAA top five.

That one returning player is Cory Cooperwood, who was voted last year as the Alabama Sports Writers Association’s JUCO athlete of the year along with being named an Alabama Community College Conference first-teamer as well as first team on the NJCAA All-American team.

“Cory is definitely a great player to try to build a basketball team around,” said Lions head coach Allen Sharpe. “He’s has great work ethic on and off the court, and he is a vocal leader in games and practice as well as a leader by example by how hard he works in practice.

“And apparently people are expecting him to do well again this season because he was selected as a preseason All-American last month.”

The Lions have already jumped out to a 4-0 record this season, including wins over Cleveland State and Roane State out of Tennessee, and Sharpe said he is glad to see the team’s defense working the way it has so far.

"The main think I like about our team in the four games we’ve played is we’re averaging 52 points per game allowed,” Sharpe said. “I don’t care who you’re playing against, that is something pretty hard to do in college basketball.”

Cooperwood is not the only sophomore on the team as four players transferred in from different schools for their final year of JUCO basketball, and Sharpe said he is looking forward to seeing how each of them will contribute to the team this season.

“One thing that is hard to do at any level is win with freshmen,” Sharpe said. “It’s definitely not impossible, but they don’t have that year of experience at this level that sophomores do.

“These four guys have been there and been in some big-game situations in college basketball. This will not be new for them and they can help bring the freshmen along.”

Sharpe said he is excited about the eight freshmen coming in this year and look for them to contribute early on.

“We signed a good group of guys that are ready to go,” Sharpe said. “They are still new to college basketball, but they each have the ability to adjust to it quickly.

“It’s up to myself and Coach (Joseph) Simmons to make sure they are ready when it’s their time to contribute.”

When it comes to conference play, Sharpe said no one in the ACCC North is a clear-cut favorite to win it at this point because everybody is in the same situation.

“Everybody lost a lot with graduation last year,” Sharpe said. “They will be doing like us and evaluating their freshmen talent and seeing what they can do with them.

“I think we have as good a shot at winning the conference as anybody.”

Wallace will be on the road tonight when the Lions travel to Northeast Mississippi Junior College. Their next home game is Nov. 27 against Reinhardt.

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