Otahkians sign three players

Thursday, April 15, 2004

The first day of college basketball's spring signing period brought the Southeast Missouri State University women's team three players, including Charleston High School senior Missy Whitney.

And Southeast's men, while not officially signing any players on Wednesday, did apparently land an athletic guard from the junior college ranks.

According to Florissant Valley Community College coach Larry Graham, Ryan "Fuzzy" Belcher signed a national letter of intent to play for the Indians, but it will probably be a few days before the paperwork gets to Southeast's coaching staff after being mailed from his hometown of Mexico, Mo., where his mother's signature was needed.

Until Southeast coach Gary Garner actually receives Belcher's signed letter of intent, he is prohibited by NCAA regulations from commenting.

But Graham said the Indians are fortunate to land the 6-foot-2 Belcher, a point guard who averaged 13 points, five rebounds, five steals and four assists per game as a sophomore for a 23-8 team.

"I think SEMO is going to be very happy with him," Graham said. "He's very athletic and he is an excellent defender. He led us in rebounding and he holds our school record for steals, which shows you the type of athlete he is."

In addition to Belcher, Southeast's men will probably sign two more players, including a junior college center, although that probably won't happen for at least a couple of weeks.

The Indians landed two players during the early signing period in the fall: James White, a 6-foot-7 sophomore forward at Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville; and 6-foot point guard Paul Paradoski, a senior at Vianney High School in St. Louis.

Otahkians land three

Southeast's women on Wednesday received letters of intent from Whitney, a 6-1 forward, and two sophomore guards at Southeastern Illinois College in Harrisburg: 5-8 Wanika Owsley and 5-9 Simone Jackson.

"We feel really good about those three," Otahkians coach B.J. Smith said.

Whitney averaged 22 points and 11 rebounds per game this year in leading Charleston to a 21-7 record and its first district title since 1986. She was a first-team Class 3 all-state selection.

"She's the first Missouri kid we've signed, and it's great to get a local player," said Smith, who recently completed his second season at Southeast. "She's a very good athlete, and we signed her over St. Louis and Austin Peay, so that's big for us."

Said Whitney: "I'm excited about coming to SEMO. When I visited there, it just felt like home. All the girls are pretty much how I am -- energetic and outgoing -- and I really like the coaching staff. They're hard on you, but hard work pays off."

Owsley, from Indianapolis, and Jackson, a native of Kingston, Jamaica, helped lead Southeastern Illinois to a 28-7 record, including a 17-0 mark in the Great Rivers Athletic Conference, and its first national tournament berth in 15 years. Southeastern Illinois is also the school that produced current Southeast center Chandra Brown.

Owsley, a point guard who can also play off-guard, averaged 12 points and eight assists per game, the latter figure ranking 10th nationally. Jackson, who can play either guard spots or small forward, averaged nine points, five rebounds and four assists. Both made all-conference and Owsley was all-region.

"Both players are very, very athletic, they'll fit very well into our transition game, and the great thing is they both know how to win and how to work," Smith said. "We lost two very good guards in Sarah Costello and Kenja White. Those are big shoes to fill, but they'll help us fill those shoes."

Southeast signed two players early in 6-2 sophomore forward Tatiana Conceicso, who went on to earn first-team junior college All-American honors at Western Nebraska Community College; and 5-5 sophomore guard Katrisha Dunn from Eastern Oklahoma Junior College.

Smith said he plans to sign two or three more players this spring.

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