Jackson State men enter new hoops season in much different place

Nobody expected much from Tevester Anderson’s Jackson State men’s team last season. After all, he’d lost a trio of the team’s top performers from 2008-09, including preseason player of the year Grant Maxey.

But Jackson State stormed through the Southwestern Athletic Conference, winning all but one contest in league play to claim the SWAC regular-season title — and putting up a 13-game win streak along the way, fifth-longest streak in the nation.

JSU (19-13 overall, 17-1 SWAC) comes into the 2010-11 season in a very different place, predicted to finish first in the conference — despite a dramatic upset in the league’s postseason event against Grambling.

“They played very well against us,” Anderson said. “Any time you go into the tournament ranked No. 1 and lose your first game, naturally it’s disappointing. I hope our guys see that as a challenge — to get focused and do better job. Grambling played better than we played, and harder than we played on that night. They were the best basketball team.”

[For Grambling men’s coach Bobby Washington, normal is good.]

Jackson State subsequently lost 81-67 to Mississippi State in the National Invitation Tournament, in the final appearance of senior guard Garrison Johnson. Named SWAC player of the year after leading the league in scoring, Johnson was drafted on Monday by the Springfield Armour, a NBA Development League team in Springfield, Mass.

“Garrison Johnson wasn’t just a scorer for us, he was a leader, too,” Anderson said. “Leadership is hard to find, and he had that. We are going to miss him greatly.”

Returners include forward Tyrone Hanson, who earned SWAC newcomer of the year honors after averaging 11.5 points and 4.7 rebounds for the Tigers. He had 16 double-figure games last year.

Maxey was named preseason first-team All-SWAC, but was still working through his injury during preseason practice sessions. Hanson and guard De’Suan Dixon were second-team picks.

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