Originally created 11/07/97

Color SEC garnet and black



BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Color the Southeastern Conference garnet and black.

South Carolina was picked to repeat as Eastern Division champion and guards BJ McKie and Melvin Watson were selected preseason all-conference at the SEC Basketball Media Days on Thursday. The Gamecocks, who have four starters back from a team which finished 15-1 in the SEC last year, received 20 first-place votes to Kentucky's 12, and McKie was also selected as the preseason MVP, garnering 14 of 31 votes.

Georgia was picked to finish third in the East. Mississippi was selected to repeat as Western Division champion, followed by Arkansas and Mississippi State.

McKie and Watson were joined on the first team by Ole Miss forward Ansu Sesay, Mississippi State forward Horatio Webster and Vanderbilt center Austin Bates. McKie, Watson and Sesay helped comprise the All-SEC team chosen at the end of last season.

Last year, McKie was second in the league in scoring with 17.4 points and Sesay averaged 14.8 points and 7.9 rebounds. Watson was second in assists with 5.1, Webster averaged 16.1 points and 7.3 rebounds, and Bates averaged 12.2 points.

Defending national champion Tennessee was selected to win the women's SEC championship, followed by Florida and Alabama. Georgia, which lost five starters, was picked fifth.

ON THE SLIDE: The Georgia women's team is ranked in most Top 25 polls, but don't tell that to coach Andy Landers. After losing five starters to graduation, his team has been beset by injuries and he actually had to hold tryouts from the student body in order to fill out practice.

"We are a depleted basketball team," said Landers, who has taken the Lady Bulldogs to 14 NCAA Tournaments in 18 years. "We have the makings of a good basketball team, but we can't afford any more bad luck."

Landers has already lost sophomore point guard Kiesha Brown and freshman forward Elena Vishniakova to season-ending injuries, and guard Latrese Bush, the team's only senior, is out to at least January with a fungal infection which required surgery.

The tryouts provided three more players who will help, but Georgia will likely fail to reach 20 victories for only the fourth time since Landers took over in 1979. The Lady Bulldogs were 26-5 last season.

"Never in my career have I had a run of bad luck like this," Landers said. "In 22 years prior to this one, I had two ACL injuries. I've already had two this year. I'm not talking about injuries where you miss one or two weeks, I'm talking about injuries to girls who'll be gone for the year or their careers."

AMIGOS: Mississippi State coach Richard Williams loved it when John Brady was hired to replace the legendary Dale Brown at LSU.

Only one problem.

It meant Brady, who was an assistant under Williams for four seasons in the late 1980s, would have to face his former mentor on the court.

"I'm not looking forward to coaching against him," Williams said. "I don't look forward to coaching against friends, especially someone I consider a close friend. One of us will have to lose those games, and that hurts me personally. We both take losing so hard, and it's too bad that somebody will have to lose when we play."

LSU and Mississippi State will meet for the first time on Wednesday, Feb. 14, in Starkville, Miss.

Brady, who, like Williams, is a native Mississippian, coached the past six years at Samford University in Birmingham.

"When I took (the LSU) job, we had seven players," Brady said. "Then we had two team meetings and three of those players quit. (Assistant coach) Kermit Davis came to me with a suggestion. He said, `John, let's not have any more team meetings."'

TURNAROUND: George Felton, who coached South Carolina when Tubby Smith was an assistant there from 1986-89, is now an assistant under Smith at Kentucky.

Felton led the Gamecocks to an 87-62 mark and their first NCAA appearance in 15 years in 1989. He left after a 20-13 season in 1990-91 and had been an assistant at Oregon State the past two seasons before leaving to join Smith.

RIM SHOTS: How far has LSU fallen? No returning player averaged more than 9.8 points, and Lester Earl, the team's third-leading scorer, has transferred to Kansas. No wonder the Tigers finished 10-20 last year, their fifth straight losing season. ... Georgia junior guard Pam Irwin, a native of Decatur, Tenn., is a big NASCAR fan. "My brother got me into it," she said. "We're real competitive. He likes Fords, so I have to like Chevys." Her favorite driver is Dale Earnhardt. ... New Tennessee coach Jerry Green got that job after a strong endorsement from longtime pal and former boss Roy Williams, the Kansas coach. ... Florida will play 17 of its 26 games in that state. ... Teams from Tennessee and Auburn went to Europe and Ole Miss traveled to Australia. "They sure played dirty down there," Ole Miss guard Joezon Darby said. "They were getting away with everything. They were hitting us and undercutting us. It was rough. I'd go back in a second, though."