The Mississippi College Men’s basketball team opened preseason practice this week. The Choctaws have the four returning starters, which is the most of any school in the GSC, and Head Coach Don Lofton believes this is the team that will finally give MC respect in the GSC.
Lofton has been the head coach for the Choctaws the past 13 seasons and has been on the coaching staff for the past 33. Mississippi College struggled last season, going 7-19. Nevertheless, the team is returning three of the four leading scorers from last year.
Lofton believes that the experience his players gained over the past season will pay off this year. “We have four returning starters from last season. We have more depth than we had in previous years. We have a lot of experience, and that experience has not always been good. But that experience will pay off for us this year,” Lofton said.
Junior guard Antonio Johnson says the past two years have helped build chemistry with his teammates. “Experience is going to play a huge role; we know each other, we know what we like to do and how we like to play. We know where we like to catch the ball, and things like that,” said Johnson.
Johnson led the GSC in three-point percentage last year at 44 percent. But this year he wants to grow as a defender and as a leader. “Personally, I would like to fix my defense, and become more of a leader than I was last season.” Forward Stacy Mack wants to give the young Choctaws a road to success. “I want to give advice to the young guys, make a blueprint for them. This year, I now have a voice, being in my third year, it will be a real fun year,” Mack said.
The Choctaws will work hard on their defense this preseason, as they gave up 81 points per game last year. “We have been pretty good offensively but not nearly good enough defensively. We want to emphasize everything, especially defense. We really need to improve defensively. This Gulf South Conference is really tough, so we have to worry about getting better each and every day,” Lofton said.
MC had a really tough offseason, as they worked on their mindset, and always pushing each other. Mack believes that will help push the Choctaws to a new level this season. “It’s all about the mindset, Coach Quick really taught us that no matter how heavy the weight is, you just have to have that mindset to push through. I think that will do us good during the season when everybody is tired. Are you going to basically quit or are you going to keep playing when it gets tough?” he said..
Mississippi College wants to gain respect this season, and Coach Lofton knows it is not where you start but where you finish. “The next step is to gain some respect; there are 14 basketball teams in our league and we were picked to finished 12th. I’ve learned a long time ago, that it is not where you are picked but it where you finish. Hopefully we finish a whole lot higher than 12th. We expect to and want to. Hopefully this basketball team that we have can,” Lofton said.
Mack just wants to prove the Choctaws are a good basketball team. “We really have to prove ourselves. I know how much potential we have with this team. We’ve always had great talent; now we just need to put it together. I am looking to come out first — my expectations is to be first in the polls. I want to win everything. I just want to win, I will do anything it takes to win, and I honestly put my body on the line just to try to win,” Mack said.
The Choctaws start preseason play at Embry-Riddle on Nov. 10, in Daytona Beach, Fla.