SOU men's basketball team eager for early-season test

Southern Oregon head coach Brian McDermott will get an early look at his men's basketball team this weekend as the Raiders open up the 2009-10 season.

Southern Oregon hosts Indiana-East Friday afternoon at 3 p.m., then play an exhibition game at Oregon State Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m.

"Playing early fits into our schedule this year," McDermott said. "We start out playing four games in nine days and then have 10-12 days that we don't play. That let's us re-evaluate what we are doing as we get ready for conference."

There seems to be a sense of excitement for the SOU men, who seem to have a really good blend of size, scoring and speed to make some noise in the Cascade Conference.

The size comes from senior transfer Ryan Staker (6-foot-8, 245 pounds), who will give the Raiders a legitimate post man. Staker arrived from NCAA Division I UC Irvine.

"He definitely gives us a presence inside," McDermott said. "He's going to shoot a high percentage and get to foul line a lot."

The Raiders have plenty of players that can put the ball in the hoop as well.

Senior guard Jarrad Childs (who is out until Christmas) averaged 13.5 points last year and earned All-Conference honors. Sophomore Joe White (38 percent from 3-point range last year) and senior David Grant (red-shirt last year) both can extend a defense with their long-range shooting. Senior Justonn Smith is expected to get his athletic 6-3, 220-pound body to the rim and also shoot the ball. Smith transferred from Hawaii Pacific and San Jose State.

"Our offense is much improved," McDermott said. "We have more ways to score then we've had in the past."

The Raiders will go with a pair of point guards to fill the guard spots to start the year.

Last year's starter Humphrey Jackson and former North Medford star Drew Herrera has impressed during the fall.

Jackson averaged 8.5 points and handed out 119 assists last year. Herrera spent the past two years at College of the Siskiyous.

"It's nice to have two guys that can play both positions," McDermott said. "They both are good passers and can both shoot."

McDermott has also been impressed with the preseason play of returners Trevor McCay (Jr./G), Armani Jackson (Jr./F), Chris Mackovjak (Sr./F), Austin Wolfer (Sr./P) and newcomers Nate Rodriguez (Jr./G) and Roland Johnson (Jr./F).

Women's Volleyball

The Southern Oregon volleyball team will make its final regular season home appearances in McNeal Pavilion this weekend.

The Raiders (19-2 overall, 13-1 Cascade Conference) host Corban (9-15, 7-8) Friday night and Northwest Christian (6-18, 1-14) Saturday night. Both matches start at 7 p.m. The top 15 in this week's NAIA Top 25 poll remained the same, so SOU is spending its third week at No. 12.

While this is the regular season home finale this weekend, the Raiders still have a couple chances for home matches in the postseason. SOU is still tied with eighth-ranked College of Idaho for first place in the conference race, with the winner hosting the Cascade Conference tournament. The conference tournament will take place Nov. 13-14.

SOU is also putting the finishing touches on a bid to host a first-round match in the NAIA National Tournament that would take place Nov. 21. The Raiders have a chance this weekend to go over the 20 wins in a season mark for the 27th time in program history. SOU has won 20 matches each of the past two years. The Raiders are also looking to extend a 10-match win streak.

Cross Country

The Southern Oregon men's cross country team has taken over the No. 1 ranking in this week's NAIA Top 25 Poll.

The Raiders replaced two-time defending National Champion Malone (Ohio) for the top spot.

"I'm kinda shocked and surprised," SOU second-year head coach Brent Ericksen said. "But it's a great honor, you always want to be considered the best in your sport. Now we need to go out and earn the honor and the only way to do that is at Nationals."

Southern Oregon received nine first place votes and 580 total votes to move up from No. 2 in the rankings. Malone received 12 first-place votes and 576 total votes.

"Malone is a very good team and a great program," Ericksen said. "There are a lot of teams out there ready to jump on us."

The No. 1 ranking is the highest in program history and the men's cross country team now sits with SOU's wrestling, men's basketball and women's basketball teams as having a No. 1 ranking during the program's history.

Southern Oregon continued its undefeated season last weekend by winning the Oregon State Beaver Classic.

The SOU women's team also jumped back into the "receiving votes" category, coming away with 16 votes this week.

The Raiders return to action next Saturday (Nov. 7) when they take part in the Cascade Conference Championships in Springfield. The NAIA National Championships are set for Nov. 21.

The Southern Oregon athletic department now has five teams ranked in the NAIA Polls. Both the men's cross country team and the wrestling team have No. 1 rankings. The SOU volleyball team is ranked 12th, the women's basketball team is ranked 18th and the women's cross country team is receiving votes.

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