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Date Posted: Mon, November 15 2004, 10:03:26
Author: giantbenmav
Subject: Star-Telegram Basketball Preview

Year of renewal, hope for UTA

By Kelly Morris

Star-Telegram Staff Writer

The UT-Arlington men's basketball team claimed its first Southland Conference regular-season title last season and finished with 17 wins, the most in more than a decade.

The women's team cruised to a 19-12 record, falling just short of an NCAA Tournament berth.

Steven Thomas, a junior forward from Dunbar, is the only key returning starter on the men's team. His leadership will be crucial this season.

Forward Rola Ogunoye, the Lady Mavericks' leading scorer last season, returns for her senior season hoping to help the team build on its success.

MEN: Inexperienced team will defend league crown

UTA men's basketball coach Eddie McCarter desperately wants to learn which direction his team, which has more new faces than old ones, will take this season.

Junior forward Steven Thomas envisions a winning one. He's predicting a 24-8 record and an SLC championship.

"I see that," Thomas said. "This team is different than last year's. It's so competitive. Everybody wants to get out there and work."

Last season, Thomas watched senior starters Derrick Obasohan, Roy Johnson, Keith Howell and Donny Beacham pile on UTA's scoring, leading the Mavericks to the school's first SLC regular-season title, a co-championship shared with UT-San Antonio and Southeast Louisiana. They lost 69-68 to Stephen F. Austin in the second round of the SLC tournament.

Now, Thomas is the leader, using the lessons learned from Obasohan, Johnson, Howell and Beacham, last year's leading scorer (16.4 per game).

Junior guard Jarrett Howell said Thomas is the perfect leader.

"He doesn't want anything for himself," Howell said. "Everything about him is for the team. He just wants to do all the dirty work that nobody else wants to do. He doesn't worry about the glitz and glamour."

WOMEN: Ogunoye returns to lead a deep, savvy team

Forward Rola Ogunoye wants one thing in her final season at UT-Arlington: An SLC tournament title.

In fact, it's her No. 1 mission to make sure it happens.

Last season, the Lady Mavericks came up seven points shy of a conference title and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament after a 78-71 loss to Northwestern State in the final of the SLC tournament.

Ogunoye, last season's leading scorer (15.2 points per game) and rebounder (7.8 rebounds per game) won't be alone in her quest. Three other starters from 2003-04 also return. "The feeling is just intense, even more so now that this is my last year. I want to go on [playing basketball after college]. But what if I don't? Everything has to be thought of that this is my last time."

Ogunoye was selected to last season's first-team SLC team and all-tournament team and ranks sixth on UTA's all-time scoring list with 1,180 points, but she doesn't consider herself the team's leader. She leaves that to senior point guard Krystal Buchanan, UTA's all-time career assists leader with 441.

But after being selected SLC player of the week three times last season, Ogunoye wouldn't mind an SLC Player of the Year trophy to go with her conference tournament title.

"I wanted it last year bad," Ogunoye said. "Just like our championship, you get a taste of something, but if we don't get that [SLC tournament] championship, conference player of the year means nothing."

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