CCU begins Kimbel farewell season with doubleheader

The Coastal Carolina men’s and women’s basketball teams will open the 2011-12 seasons with a doubleheader Friday night at Kimbel Arena, the only hoops facility the Chanticleers have called home in school history.

The Lady Chanticleers kick off their final campaign at Kimbel at 5 p.m. against Southern Virginia, and the Chanticleers, coming off a school-record 28 wins, will face Covenant College in the nightcap at 7 p.m.

Coastal, which won its second straight Big South Conference regular-season title last season, is looking to win the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA tourney which it hasn’t done since 1993.

To do so, Coastal will have to fill the void left by several departing players, including team MVP Chad Gray, Desmond Holloway and Danny Nieman. Returner starters Sam McLaurin and Kierre Greenwood will have to take the lead while others step forward as the season progresses.

“Everyone is working really hard,” said coach Cliff Ellis, who is entering his fifth season with the Chants. “We have a lot of guys coming back from injuries, but I am proud of how the team is approaching every practice.”

The Chants play a weekend doubleheader, returning to Kimbel at 7 p.m. Saturday to take on Methodist. They welcome LSU on Nov. 15 and Spalding on Nov. 18 before traveling to face Clemson, Ellis’ former school, on Nov. 22. That game will be televised on FOX Sports at 9 p.m.

The Lady Chants are looking to make a turnaround after last year’s 10-19 season, their first sub-.500 season in five years. Coach Alan Le Force is installing new offensive and defensive sets and welcome five talented freshmen, including three from Myrtle Beach High’s two-time defending state championship squad.

“Between the mix of upperclassmen and the last two recruiting classes, this is one of the most athletic and skilled teams I have coached at Coastal,” said LeForce, who previously coached men’s basketball at East Tennessee State.

“We have more quickness from top to bottom than I have ever had as a women’s coach. This team also has more depth, with many reserves having played significant minutes in their careers, than we have had in a number of years.”

Tonight’s doubleheader kicks off a season of celebration for the teams’ long-awaited exit from Kimbel, which is among the smallest gymnasiums in Division I college basketball at just under 1,000 seats.

Coastal is in the process of building a new athletic center that will house the men’s and women’s basketball teams, as well as other sports and classes on campus.

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