Darrell Walker Era Begins Tonight as Little Rock Trojans Face Southeastern Oklahoma State


Courtesy of Little Rock Athletics

Little Rock begins its 81st season of basketball Thursday night when the Trojans open the 2018-19 season hosting Southeastern Oklahoma State at 6:30 p.m. at the Jack Stephens Center. Little Rock’s games will once again be heard on The Point 94.1 FM with Ray Tucker returning as the voice of the Little Rock Trojans, joined this season by former Little Rock men’s basketball SID Patrick Newton.

When Little Rock tips off Thursday against Southeastern Oklahoma State, it will mark the beginning of the 81st season in Trojan basketball history. Over the years, Little Rock has posted a 40-40 (.500) record in its season openers, winning four of its last six season-openers. Little Rock’s longest season-opener win streak is eight, winning its first game every year from 1988 to 1995. Additionally, the Trojans have notched a 36-3 (.923) record in home openers since making the move to Division I in 1978-79. Little Rock’s only losses over that span came to Oklahoma State (1999), North Florida (2013) and Ouachita Baptist (2017).

Another impressive program benchmark will be reached Thursday as Little Rock is beginning its 40th season at the Division I level. Little Rock has posted an overall record of 661-512 (.564) as a Division I program, competing in the Trans America Athletic Conference from 1978-91 before beginning competition in the Sun Belt Conference in 1992. During their time as a Division I program, Little Rock has made eight postseason appearances, five of which have been in the NCAA tournament.

A new era for Little Rock basketball gets underway Thursday evening as Darrell Walker makes his debut as the Trojans’ 23rd head basketball coach against Southeastern Oklahoma State. Walker, who spent the last two seasons at Clark Atlanta and compiled an overall record of 45-18 (.714), brings an impressive basketball pedigree to Little Rock, playing 12 years in the National Basketball Association, followed by 20 years as a coach at the professional level.

Little Rock enters the 2018-19 season on the cusp of a major milestone in program history, boasting an overall program record of 998-1,029 (.492). The Trojans have accumulated 35 winning seasons in program history and have won 20 or more games 11 times, highlighted by the memorable 30-win campaign in 2016-17.

Since 2005, Little Rock has called the Jack Stephens Center home, and the venue has helped the Trojans become one of the Sun Belt’s toughest home teams. Little Rock has posted a 124-69 record (.642) at the Jack since the doors opened, including an 11-2 mark (.846) in its home openers. The Trojans have posted a winning home record in 12 of its 13 seasons at the Jack Stephens Center, winning 10 or more home games on five occasions.

Little Rock knows it faces an uphill climb following a disappointing 2017-18 season in which it finished 7-25 record, setting a program record for most losses in program history. The Trojans were picked 12th in the Sun Belt Conference preseason poll, garnering just 16 total points, with no players listed on the preseason All-Sun Belt teams. The ranking comes as no surprise as the Trojans averaged just 63.7 points per game last season, ranking 340th out of 353 Division I programs.

As the 2018-19 season gets underway, Little Rock will hit the court with one of the nation’s most inexperienced teams as the Trojans return just 31.7% of their minutes played (2,065) and 29.2% of their scoring (596) from last season. Sophomore Jaizec Lottie returns the bulk of that, accounting for 801 minutes and 225 points, with junior Ryan Pippins contributing 465 minutes and 144 points for Little Rock.

With the start of the 2018-19 season on the horizon, Little Rock eagerly anticipates the return of two players expected to add to the Trojans firepower. Redshirt junior guards Deondre Burns and Rayjon Tucker will be on the court for the Trojans Thursday after the duo both sat the entire 2017-18 season. Burns missed the year recovering from an injury while Tucker was unable to compete due to NCAA transfer regulations after transferring to Little Rock from Florida Gulf Coast.

Head coach Darrell Walker added six newcomers to the Trojan roster with each anticipated to compete for significant playing time in 2018-19. Walker brought in three highly touted freshmen in the spring, comprised of Markquis Nowell (Harlem, N.Y.), Kamani Johnson (Brooklyn, N.Y.) and Horace Wyatt Jr. (Atlanta, Ga.). The Trojan lineup was bolstered by graduate forward Dani Koljanin (Pula, Croatia), who joined the team in August after graduating from Marshall. Two more freshmen were late additions after the start of the fall semester as Terrell Curtis II (Maumelle, Ark.) and Nikola Maric (Trebinje, Bosnia-Herzegovina) bring the Trojan roster to 12.

2017-18 Final Results: 15-14 overall, 13-9 Great American Conference (T-3rd)
First Three Games: at Little Rock (Nov. 8), vs. Arlington Baptist (Nov. 13), vs. Texas A&M-International (Nov. 23)
Series: First meeting between Little Rock and Southeastern Oklahoma State
Head Coach: Kelly Green (Northwestern Oklahoma State). 8th season at Southeastern Oklahoma State (89-108)

Southeastern Oklahoma State finished 15-14 last season and 13-9 in the Great American Conference, tied for third, as the Savage Storm averaged 77.4 points per game. Southeastern Oklahoma State returns four starters and a number of key returners from last season, including three players who averaged double figures in scoring last season in junior forward Kevin Buckingham (15.0), junior guard Jett Jobe (12.2) and senior guard A’Torey Everett (11.0). Buckingham also averaged seven rebounds per game, shooting 54.0 percent from the floor and 83.2 percent from the free throw line, with sophomore guard Adam Dworsky averaging 8.6 points and 4.8 assists per game, shooting 88.9 percent from the free throw line. 

Little Rock has a lengthy history with a handful of members of the Great American Conference as many of them were regular opponents of the Trojans back in the early days of Little Rock basketball. The Trojans are 53-131 (.288) all-time against current GAC members but have fared much better since making the jump to Division I, winning eight of the nine games against conference foes with the lone setback coming in the 81-79 loss to Ouachita Baptist in last year’s season-opener.

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