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Women picked to repeat as SWAC champs; men picked 2nd

The Southern women’s basketball team was picked to repeat as Southwestern Athletic Conference champion in the conference’s preseason poll released Wednesday.

The SWAC’s coaches and sports information directors picked the Jaguars men, who are also defending league champions, to finish second behind Alabama State.

Southern forward Jasmine Jefferson was named to the women’s first team and she was the only member of either Jaguars team to be named to either the first or second teams.

“Winning the regular-season title is one of our big goals each and every year,” Southern coach Sandy Pugh said during the SWAC’s preseason coaches teleconference. “We’re returning 10 players and six of them are seniors, so this is their last go-round and they definitely want to prove to the legends around here, the young ladies who came before them that they are worthy of carrying on the tradition of Southern women’s basketball.”

The Southern women finished 20-8 and 16-2 in the SWAC, but won just one game in the conference tournament before being eliminated by Prairie View 72-43 in the semifinals.

Pugh said guard Kendra Coleman, the Jaguars leading scorer last season, underwent knee surgery during the offseason to fix torn meniscus that plagued her during last season. Coleman has been full go since the start of preseason practice last week, Pugh said.

Both Southern teams are unsure if their goal of reaching the NCAA Tournament is even possible because of a ban on post-season play due to inadequate reporting of student-athletes’ Academic Progress rates. It’s unclear when the NCAA might lift the ban, which would have kept both teams out of the NCAA tournament last season even if they had won the SWAC tournament.

The men finished 19-13 and 15-3 after a 64-46 loss to Prairie View in their first game in the SWAC tournament.

Southern returns just six players from last year’s team and the top returning big men — Calvin Godfrey and Damien Goodwin — transferred because of the NCAA ban.

The returning group is guard-heavy, led by Trelun Banks, the SWAC Freshman of the Year last season, Tre Lynch and Christopher Hyder.

“I’m looking forward to the upcoming season,” Coach Roman Banks said. “I don’t know if we have any marquee names returning, but I like the effort that these guys have put forth on the court so far.”