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Wallace State men's basketball continues to establish itself as one of the top programs in the state and enters the 2014-15 season as the defending Alabama Community College Conference (ACCC)/Region 22 regular season and conference champ. The Lions, who have won three of the last five state titles, put together one of their best campaigns ever during the 2013-14 season, finishing with a 28-7 record, earning the ACCC regular season championship, winning the conference tournament title and advancing to the second round of the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division I national tournament.
Coach John Meeks, sophomore guard Lee Moore and the Lions, ranked No. 25 in NJCAA preseason poll, hope for similar results in 2014-15.
Moore returns to the Lions after a stellar freshman season. Moore, a Georgia native, was second on the team last season with 18 points per game and he added 7.2 rebounds. He was named to the NJCAA Region 22 first team and was also named the 2014 ACCC/Region 22 tournament MVP after pouring in 53 points over a three-game stretch.
Other than Moore, the lone sophomore returner this season is Kriston Beasley.
More than likely, Wallace State will rely on a talented freshman class as it seeks a championship repeat.
Dante Battle and Immanuel King, both natives of Rocky Mount, N.C., were high school teammates and should be key pieces to Wallace State's fortunes this season. Battle, a 6-foot-7 forward, won a high school state championship as a sophomore and was named tournament MVP. He went on to average 16 points and 11.3 rebounds his senior season and finished his career with 1,391 points and 897 rebounds in 109 games. Battle is listed among the top NJCAA preseason freshmen to watch.
King is expected to be a strong force in the post with Battle this season.
Xavier Mills, another North Carolina native, will man point guard for Wallace State and has already been selected as a team captain for the season.
Other freshmen on this year's team include guard Bennett Wilson (Newberry, S.C.), guard Jaylin Henderson (Oak Ridge, Tenn.), forward Tyrell Clary (Huntsville), guard Kylen Butler (Danville, Ill.), and forward Devorice Millbry (Huntsville).
Sophomore transfers on this year's team are guards Linwood Ruffin, Sidney Knox and Richard Smith.
As he enters his fifth season at Wallace State, Meeks has developed into one of the most successful coaches in the conference, compiling an 82-51 record. The 31-year-old has won two state/region championships with the Lions and was named the 2014 ACCC Coach of the Year.
Before inheriting the Wallace State job, Meeks spent two seasons as the head man at Louisburg College in North Carolina, where he went 51-15 and guided the Hurricanes to the NJCAA Division II championship, where they won their first ever national tournament game. Meeks, who has a 132-67 career record in six seasons between his two head coaching stops, was also selected as the 2010 NJCAA District 15 Coach of the Year.
Meeks' entire coaching career spans 13 seasons and includes assistant stops at Bluefield College in Virginia and three years at NAIA Lee University (Tenn.). He has coached six NAIA All-Americans, one NJCAA All-American, 11 All-Conference players, five conference MVPs, six All-Region performers and one defensive player of the year.
Meeks led Wallace State to the second round of the NJCAA Division I national tournament last season. The Lions won their NJCAA Division I tournament opener in thrilling fashion in Hutchinson, Kansas, knocking off Westchester (N.Y.) CC, 101-99, in double overtime. Jestin Lewis and Lee Moore each had 28 points in the victory. The Lions were eliminated in their second-round game, losing to Vincennes (Ind.) University.
Wallace State was paced in 2013-14 by the backcourt trio of Lewis, Moore and Marcus Johnson. Lewis finished his two-year career at Wallace State as one of the most prolific scorers in school history. He averaged a team-high 19 points per game, good for third in the conference, and added team-bests 127 assists and 64 steals. Lewis, a Virginia native, was a NJCAA Region 22 first-team selection for his regular-season work and an ACCC/Region 22 All-Tournament membe. As a freshman at Wallace State, Lewis averaged 17.1 points and was second-team All-Region and a first-team All-ACCC North Division selection.
Johnson, one of Wallace State's unquestioned leaders, poured in 13.5 points per game at point guard and was named to the All-Tournament team.
Other key contributors for Wallace State during the 2013-14 championship season included forward Cody Farley, All-Tournament selection Marcus Burwell, X-keem Jones, Quinterian McConico and Sean Anthony.
Wallace State also won state championships in 2012 and 2010. In 2012, the Lions reeled off four wins in four days as a No. 6 seed at the 2012 ACCC tournament and prevailed in a consolation game at the national tournament. In 2010, the Lions won their first state championship and made their first national tournament appearance in coach Allen Sharpe's final season in Hanceville, finishing fifth in the country.
Wallace State basketball set school records for wins (32) during the 2009-10 and 2007-08 seasons, was seventh in the preseason rankings by The Sporting News in 2009-10 and has been ranked No. 1 in the nation once (2007-08). The program has also produced two first-team All-Americans in Cory Cooperwood (2006-07, 2007-08) and L.A. Farmer (2009-10).
For more information about the Wallace State basketball program, contact Coach John Meeks at 256-352-8365 or at John.Meeks@wallacestate.edu.
*Coach Meeks would like to thank this year's sponsors of Wallace State basketball. They include: Dairy Queen in Hanceville; Sonic in Cullman; Ryan's in Cullman; Hardee's in Hanceville; Captain D's in Cullman; Domino's Pizza in Hanceville; Huddle House in Hanceville; McDonalds in Hanceville; Zaxby's in Cullman; Ruby Tuesday in Cullman; Arby's in Cullman (Cherokee Ave.); Taco Bell in Cullman (Hwy. 157 location); Bojangles in Cullman; K-May Donuts in Cullman; Pasquale's Pizza in Cullman and Chick-Fil-A in Cullman.