As he begins the third season of his second stint as head men’s basketball coach at Arkansas Tech University, Mark Downey is pleased with the basketball skills development he sees in his seven returning players from a year ago.
He’s even more pleased with their growth as human beings.
“They are being leaders,” said Downey. “We lost Cam (Kennedy), Tony (Hall) and Kevin (Howard). Those guys were good leaders for us, and now it’s time for these guys to step up. I think they’ve done that so far. That’s even more important than player development. Leadership development is something those guys have done a good job with.”
The Wonder Boys (0-2) will make their 2022-23 home debut against the University of Texas-Tyler on Thursday, Nov. 17. Tip-off at Tucker Coliseum is set for 7 p.m. Tickets are available at www.arkansastechsports.com.
A pair of newcomers — sophomore guard Andre Leavell (13.5 points per game) and junior forward Wes Harris (10 points per game) — are ATU’s top scorers through the first two games of the season.
“We have a lot of guys back who played some really good minutes for us last year, but we needed to get some guys in here who could score and we needed some depth,” said Downey. “I like what we brought in. Keeping them on the floor this fall has been a challenge due to injuries and things like that, but we’re trying to get through those. We’re trying to get to a point of deserving to win, and I think the guys who have been out there are doing that.”
While the Wonder Boys are preparing for their first home appearance of the season, the Arkansas Tech Golden Suns will get their first taste of life on the road Thursday, Nov. 17.
ATU’s women (1-0) will visit Maryville University for a 5:30 p.m. contest in St. Louis, Mo.
“(Maryville) is a very good team,” said Dave Wilbers, Arkansas Tech head women’s basketball coach. “They have some dynamic guards and their post players are very strong. It will be a heck of a challenge on Thursday for our basketball team, but we need to be tested like that.”
The Golden Suns were led in their 94-45 season-opening win over Champion Christian College on Monday by sophomore guard Jalei Oglesby, who scored 16 points, collected seven rebounds and made four steals, and junior guard Kaley Shipman, who notched 15 points and made three 3-pointers.
This is the fourth year on campus for both Oglesby and Shipman, but due to a combination of injuries and the COVID-19 pandemic, Monday night marked just the 24th time they have appeared in a game together. It was a reminder of the potential that exists when they share the floor.
“They are both very high-level players,” said Wilbers. “Those two do a good job playing off each other. Both of them can score in a lot of different ways, and they’ve both improved a lot with their 3-point shooting, pull-up jump shots and good leadership. We’ll need that throughout the year.”
Live coverage of both ATU basketball games Thursday night will be available on KCJC 102.3 FM, the KCJC Radio app and www.arkansastechsports.com.
Talk to you on the radio.
Tech Tidbits is a column written by Sam Strasner, ATU director of university relations and radio play-by-play voice for ATU football and basketball.