New-look Grizzlies begin title defense with Friday exhibition game
by Chris Day
ALAMOSA, Colo.— One thing is for certain, this year’s Adams State College men’s basketball team will have a different face than the one that won the school’s first ever Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference West Division title in 2006-07.
The new face starts at the top as the Grizzlies have a new head coach in Mark Murdock, who replaces Larry Mortensen, who was named as RMAC Co-Coach of the Year after leading the Grizzlies to the RMAC Championship game and their first ever NCAA Division II National Tournament. Mortensen, the head man for 11 years, is now concentrating on his athletic director duties and can now watch what is sure to be an athletic team that Murdock has assembled.
The new face is also made up in the defending champions’ roster, which includes just four returners and 10 newcomers, all but one of which have previous collegiate experience.
The list of returning players is highlighted by guards Larry Charles, Jr. (Tucson, Ariz.), a Second Team All-RMAC West pick in 2007, and Marcus Mortensen (Cortez, Colo.), the reigning RMAC West Division Co-Defensive Player of the Year.
Both can play the point guard position well, something that Murdock was quite excited about when starting to build his team that will have to gel together quickly.
Murdock also has the services of returning forward Kevin Johnson (Newark, Calif.), another key member of the national tournament team, and Seth Heinbaugh (Prescott, Ariz.), who redshirted in 2006-07.
Rece Hampton (Greenwood, Miss.) and Travis Carr (Canon City, Colo.), both of whom played at Eastern New Mexico, where Murdock was the top assistant for the past five years, and Philadelphia, Pa. native Sean Amos headline the list of newcomers.
Hampton, a 6-foot-5 power forward was an honorable mention All-American for Murdock at Eastfield (Texas) College prior to his stint at ENMU, where shot 74.5 percent for the Greyhounds. Carr, a 6-foot-1 guard, is a deadly 3-point shooter and started his career at Otero JC before moving on to ENMU.
Amos helped Ohlone (Calif.) Junior College to a school-record 28 wins in 2006-07 and is a quick 6-foot-3 guard and wing.
Brandon Graber (Hutchinson, Kan.), who played at Pratt (Kan.) Community College for the past two years, and Cornell (Iowa) College transfer Forrest Becker (Albuquerque, N.M.) will also give the Grizzlies some muscle underneath.
Vitor de Zoppa (Sorocaba, Sao Paulo, Brazil) and Christian Manzanza (Jumet, Charleroi, Belgium) will also give the Grizzlies some international flair when they begin the season, which starts with a Friday exhibition game at Division I Southern Utah.
Manzanza is likely to redshirt in 2007-08 as will Adrian Davis (Lubbock, Texas) and Patrick Soldow (Santa Fe, N.M.).
Friday’s exhibition against the Thunderbirds is the first of two that ASC will play against Division I foes. ASC, which plays at Northern Arizona on Nov. 11, then opens the regular season by hosting North Dakota and West Texas A&M in the Grizzly Tip-Off Classic on Nov. 16 & 17.
Southern Utah went 16-14 last year and also has a new head coach in Roger Reid, who returns to the NCAA Division I ranks after two years at Snow College, where his team went 23-8 while winning a Scenic West Athletic Conference Championship. The Thunderbirds, who defeated Mesa State 76-56 in a Halloween exhibition game, return four letterwinners and three starters and have been picked to finish fifth in the Summit League, the new name of the Mid-Continent Conference.