Former Liberty County basketball players Rion Brown and Jordan McRae started their college careers last season with Brown scoring points for the University of Miami and McRae making the plays at the University of Tennessee.
Both players are preparing for the 2011-12 season and will be under the guidance of new head coaches.
In April, UM basketball coach Frank Haith surprised many when he tendered his resignation to take the coaching job at Missouri. Over at UT, former basketball coach Bruce Pearl was fired after the NCAA launched an investigation into recruiting violations and Pearl initially lied to investigators.
This season, UT is under the leadership of former Missouri State coach Cuonzo Martin. UM hired Jim Larranaga, who coached at George Mason for 14 seasons.
And with new coaches and graduated starters come new opportunities for the incoming sophomore pair.
Under Pearl, McRae averaged 5.3 minutes in 10 games and was 6 of 19 in field-goal shooting. He was 5 of 11 in free throws and had eight rebounds. But under Martin, he is projected to be the starter on the wing, according to govolsxtra.com. McRae stood out in the offseason by shattering the Pilot Rocky Top League scoring record this summer. He averaged 45.7 points per game, according to the Vols’ website.
He also was named the league’s most outstanding player.
Brown played in all 36 games last year and had five starts in the postseason, two in the ACC tournament and two in the NIT, according to UM’s athletic website. He averaged 16.9 minutes per game, 4.4 points per game and two rebounds per game. Against the Maryland Terrapins, he hit a career-high 19 points, six trey shots and three assists.
Last week, the ACC picked UM to finish fifth in the conference, and Sun Sentinel UM beat reporter Steve Gorten said the players have high praise for their new coach.
In women’s basketball, former Lady Panther Metra Walthour impressed her current Georgia Tech coach MaChelle Joseph in a 40-minute inter-squad practice scrimmage two weeks ago.
“I saw some good things from our seniors,” Joseph told ramblinwreck.com. “Metra Walthour’s 3-point shooting has stood out to me. She made some clutch 3s with the shot clock running down, continues to improve and is very consistent.”
Joseph also credited Walthour in helping the incoming freshman class, saying she did a good job calming the newer players and running the team. As a junior last season Walthour was the team’s co-captain and started all 35 games.
She finished eighth in the ACC with 3.8 assists per game and sixth in the conference in steals with 2.3. She tied a career high with four 3-pointers against Maryland, then set new career bests with five 3s and 20 points against Duke, according to the website.
To date, she has scored 481 points, averaging 5.2 points per game.