Whitney adds another title to achievements

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 29, 2000

Alcorn State’s basketball team started out the 1999-2000 season with a big ol’ bull’s eye on their backs. But that was nothing new for a Dave Whitney-coached team.

Neither was the Southwestern Athletic Conference regular season championship Whitney captured Monday when his team defeated Texas Southern.

Whitney, who has long been known affectionately as &uot;The Wiz,&uot; has led his teams to 10 SWAC titles, including a record four straight from 1978-82.

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Despite advancing to the NCAA Tournament last year, losing a competitive game to Stanford 69-57 in the first round, a lot of folks outside the SWAC did not think the Braves could repeat as champions.

One reason was the loss of guard Reuben Stiff, who kept the team together like glue and was a true leader.

Alcorn finished the season at 18-9 overall and 15-3 in the SWAC, one ahead of Southern (17-10, 14-4).

&uot;We started off a little slow, but we had lost five quality players and it took a little time for us to get things going,&uot; Whitney said. &uot;Once we wer able to convince our kids what we watned to do and got them to believe in it, we got some results. Our guard play improved a whole lot. The main thing that carried us all year long was we played tremendous defense all year long, made our free throws and rebounded well. I’m still looking for our offense to come around. It’s not coming around to my satisfaction.&uot;

Southern was picked to win the league with Alcorn by conference coaches and sports information directors.

Alcorn and Southern split during the regular season, but three straight loss down the stretch, including one at Alcorn, kept the Jaguars from grabbling the top seed at the SWAC Basketball Tournament to be held in Biloxi beginning March 9.

Alcorn was the top seed last year and won the tournament, beating Southern in the championship game on the Jaguars’ home court.

&uot;It’s very important to be the No. 1 seed, there’s no doubt about that,&uot; Whitney said.

If Alcorn ever had the chance to host a SWAC Tournament, they could probably just mail it in.

The last two years the Braves have not lost at home. Alcorn has a 26-game winning streak, which is the fourth-longest in the nation.

Looking ahead to the SWAC Tournament, Whitney said Southern, Jackson State and Alabama State will provide tough competition in the tournament.

&uot;We’ve had some ups and downs in this league,&uot; he said. &uot;We don’t have the deep bench we had las year, even though they did make some valuable contributions. We played very well last night (Monday). We played with a lot of discipline.&uot;

Whitney said he is also concerned about the layoff until the SWAC Tournament start.

&uot;It does worry me to have eight days off,&uot; he said, &uot;It’s like starting a new season. We let them off today (Tuesday), but we’re going to practice real hard beginning Wednesday and hold a lot of scrimmages. We’re going to be doing a lot of teaching before the tournament starts.&uot;

Alcorn needs to take care of business impressively in the tournament in order to draw someone else besides Cincinnati, Duke or Stanford in the first round.

If the Braves could win the tournament convincingly, NCAA officials could possibly look at last year’s effort and cut the Braves some slack.

But there’s still work to be done before that. There’s still a bull’s eye mark needing to be completely erased.

Joey Martin is sports editor of The Democrat. He can be reached by calling 446-5172 ext. 232 or at joey.martin@natchezdemocrat.com.