LEVELLAND — Seven months after capturing their third NJCAA men’s basketball national championship in program history, the South Plains College men’s basketball team will tipoff the 2018-2019 season on Saturday, Nov. 3 in Lewisville, Texas at the Texas East-West Challenge against Jacksonville College at 6 p.m.
Following their opening contest, the Texans will square off with Panola College on Nov. 4 at 6 p.m. Both games will be streaming live at spctexans.com.
Following the trip to Lewisville, South Plains will be back on the road Nov. 9-10 in Liberal, Kansas to take part in the Pepsi Classic on the campus of Seward County Community College, before returning home to host the Texan Classic in Levelland Nov. 16-17.
South Plains, who earned a No. 2 national ranking in the 2018-19 NJCAA men’s basketball Div. I preseason poll and was picked to win the Western Junior College Athletic Conference, will look to recreate their offensive prowess from a year ago which saw the Texans utilize an eight-game win streak to end the year including seven consecutive wins over teams ranked in the top 25, most notably a 98-95 victory over No. 10 Southern Idaho in the national title game.
With that, the Texans return just two pieces from last year’s squad, including 6-foot-7 sophomore forward Chris Orlina, who recently committed to McNeese State University. Orlina, a native of Newport News, Virginia, averaged 8.9 points and 4.8 rebounds for the Texans during his freshman stint. Orlina played a pivotal role for the Texans down the stretch, recording double-digit scoring figures in 12 of the final 13 games, pouring in 19 against No. 12 Connors State and 17 against Southern Idaho.
Sophomore big man Chris Efretuei also returns for South Plains after averaging 1.8 points and 2.4 rebounds per game during his freshman campaign, including a career-high nine points and nine rebounds against Collin County on Nov. 18 in Levelland.
“We have given these guys some support from some older players and some Division I transfers, so we’re not going into this season like a rebuilding type year,” South Plains head coach Steve Green said. “We have a good group and some of the strengths that this team his is not what last year’s team had. We’re going to have to do things a little different, but I think it’s going to be enjoyable.”
Efretuei, a 7-foot-1 center from Nigeria will be joined in the blocks by sophomore transfer Gaige Prim, who joins the Texans after one season with West Texas A&M University. A 6-foot-8 forward from Aurora, Colorado, Prim averaged 18 minutes, 10.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per game for the Buffs a year ago. Prim was a Second Team All-State selection his senior year at Grandview High School, leading his team to a 21-6 record and an appearance in the Colorado Elite 8.
South Plains will also look to newcomer Jonah Antonio, a 6-foot-5 sharpshooter from Perth, Australia who proved to be a consistent threat from the perimeter last season at Mount St. Mary’s. Antonio averaged 11.3 points and 3.8 rebounds per game during his freshman stint, leading the Mountaineers with 90 3-pointers, the second-best single-season mark in program history. Antonio was named to the NEC All-Rookie Team and earned NEC Rookie of the Week twice.
“We’re a bigger team than we were last year, and our wing guys are bigger and it’s a different kind of team,” Green said. “I think we have a chance to be better defensively than last year’s team, and we have a post player (Prim) who I think will more consistent from day one than we were last season.”