Clayton State ranked No. 1 in Division II Bulletin Women’s Basketball Preseason Top 25
MORROW, Ga. – October 15, 2011 – As the defending NCAA Division II National Champion Clayton State Laker women's basketball team officially started practice on Saturday, it did so as the preseason No. 1-ranked team in the nation in Division II.
Division II Bulletin released its preseason women's Top 25 poll in its October/November issue, and it has Clayton State as the top-ranked team. This marks the first time ever that a Clayton State team has been ranked preseason No. 1 in the nation in any sport.
"It is indeed flattering, and we welcome the challenge that being preseason ranked number one presents, but our team understands that this recognition is due mainly to the achievements of last year's team," said Clayton State head coach Dennis Cox, who is 184-45 in his eighth season at Clayton State. "This is a new team in a new year, and we have an extremely tough schedule ahead of us, but we are excited for the opportunity to defend our national title."
The Lakers are No. 1, followed by Bentley, Grand Valley State, Arkansas Tech, Fort Lewis, Wisconsin-Parkside, Shaw, Delta State, UC-San Diego and Michigan Tech in the Top 10. It was Michigan Tech that Clayton State defeated 69-50 in the Division II national championship game 69-50. The Lakers also knocked off Bentley in the quarterfinals and Shaw in the semifinals.
Two teams on Clayton State's schedule this season are preseason nationally-ranked. Barton, who the Lakers play host to on Dec. 3, is ranked 21stm, while Wingate, who will be a part of the Heritage Bank Holiday Classic on Dec. 29-30, is ranked 24th. Clayton State is the lone Peach Belt Conference ranked in the Division II Bulletin preseason Top 25.
Cox returns three starters and eight players off last season's 35-1 squad. The most notable are senior wings Tanisha Woodard and Brittany Hall, plus the point guard tandem of Genesis Kelly, who missed most of last season with an injury, and junior Drameka Griggs.
The 5-foot-10 Woodard is a returning All-Peach Belt Conference and Division II All-Southeast Region selection who was also the Peach Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Year. She needs only two points to become the eighth player in Clayton State women's basketball history to reach 1,000 career points. The 5-9 Hall needs 182 points to reach 1,000 for her career, and she was the Peach Belt's leading 3-point shooter last season at 43 percent.
Clayton State plays a preseason exhibition game at Vanderbilt on Nov. 5. The Lakers officially open the 2011-12 season in the Spartan Challenge Tournament at Tampa on Nov. 11-12.
LAKERS OPEN PRACTICE ON SATURDAY: Cox put the Lakers through roughly a two-hour opening practice on Saturday in the Athletics and Fitness Center. In addition to the eight returning players, Clayton State also has four newcomers to this season – forwards Shannon Smith and Brandice Howard from the junior college ranks and wings Jessica Covington and Shadawn Clanton from the Georgia prep ranks.