Braves in ‘paradise’

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 25, 2002

LORMAN &045; Timing, as it turns out, is a wonderful thing.

How better can things get for Alcorn senior guard Jason Cable? Not only is he going along with the rest of the Braves to play in the Outriggers Hotels Holiday Classic in Honolulu, Hawaii, but Friday’s opener will be the first he is cleared to play after sitting out the past couple of games with a knee injury.

The trip to Hawaii will be the second straight for Cable and the Braves, who played at Hawaii in a single game last season.

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&uot;It’s truly paradise,&uot; Cable said. &uot;I heard it was paradise, and it truly is. It’s everything you expect and more. It’s going to be in the 80s this week. I’m looking forward to that. The only bad thing about it is coming home.&uot;

Coming home without a couple of wins may be even worse. The Braves (1-7) will open at 9 p.m. (5 p.m. Hawaii time) Friday against Tennessee Tech, and the rest of the bracket includes Bradley, Chicago State, host Hawaii, Texas-Pan American and Western Kentucky.

The Braves go in deeper at the perimeter with Cable, although the NCAA ruled this week senior guard Jeff Cammon is ineligible for the season. But Cammon has not played yet this season, and the younger guards Alleo Frazier and Corey Jackson have filled in at the guards.

&uot;We’re getting (Cable) back, but he’s not at full strength,&uot; Alcorn head coach Davey Whitney said. &uot;Our guards haven’t hurt us. They haven’t lost any games for us, but they haven’t won any games for us. Most of our mistakes have been by our big men. The biggest problem has been chemistry. Five guys have to do this thing. If one guy gets out of whack, they all get out of whack.&uot;

Things have been a little out of whack for the Braves so far in losing seven of their first eight, but most of those losses have been to bigger programs &045; losses at Louisiana-Lafeyette and South Florida and narrow defeats at Southern Miss, Arkansas-Little Rock and Baylor.

&uot;We spend a lot of time trying to get everybody ready on the same page, and we haven’t had a practice where everybody could practice,&uot; Whitney said. &uot;This is the first time we’ve had everybody that could practice practice. We don’t have any trouble staying positive. We know we lost four ball games where if we executed well we should have won. They realize it, and I realize it, too.&uot;

If the Braves can execute and win a couple games in Hawaii, things would go well heading into the SWAC portion of the schedule, beginning just after the first of the year. Tennessee Tech is coming off a 27-4 campaign and has plenty of height to around.

The Braves will depend on post Lee Cook, the 6-10 junior who is averaging 19 points and eight rebounds a game.

An ideal situation, Whitney said, is to net at least two wins in the tournament against a field of competition he feels is beatable.

&uot;No less than three (wins),&uot; Cable said of the goal. &uot;We have the firepower to beat all the teams over there. Lee Cook is playing well. We need people to step up. If we can do that, we’ve got a chance to win all three games.&uot;

The trip back home to Lorman, meanwhile, will last just a day. The Braves will jump back on a plane and visit Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky., Jan. 2 to face the Kentucky Wildcats.

The trip will be a homecoming of sorts for Whitney, an alum of Kentucky State College and Lexington Dunbar High School.

&uot;I don’t envy us there because they’re looking real good,&uot; Whitney said. &uot;It may be an impossibility to beat them, but we’ve been everywhere else in the United States. We’ve played at Syracuse, USC, Louisville and LSU. Why not take you kids somewhere where everybody talks about? That’s Rupp Arena.&uot;

No doubt it will be the Braves’ toughest opponent on the schedule, but no one says they have to roll over.

&uot;That’s going to be a challenge,&uot; Cable said. &uot;We’ll determine the character of our ball club. It’s going to be a very hostile environment. How we react is probably going to determine the rest of our season.&uot;