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McNeese State head men's basketball coach Dave Simmons. (American Press)<br>

McNeese State head men's basketball coach Dave Simmons. (American Press)

Cowboys open basketball season with practice Friday night

Last Modified: Thursday, October 11, 2012 9:35 PM

By Alex Hickey / American Press

Tonight, McNeese State basketball begins the search for Patrick Richard’s replacement.

Cowboys head coach Dave Simmons can only hope it doesn’t take all season.

The Cowboys take the court for their first practice after back-to-back postseason appearances, though it will be without the player who led them to those appearances. Richard is training and awaiting the results of next month’s NBA Developmental League draft before deciding whether to go that route or head overseas to commence his pro career.

The pressure will be on returning starting guards Dontae Cannon and Jeremie Mitchell to fill the void.

“We’ve got some kids that can really fill that role as a leader, but it will be interesting to see who steps up as we get to practicing,” Simmons said. “No one has identified himself as that guy. They’re so young and everybody else is looking to Dontae and Jeremie for those roles. The biggest thing is seeing who will be that one guy to challenge them in practice every day.”

They’ll also be looking for help from some newcomers — guard Ledrick Eackles, who sat out last season after transferring from Oakland (Mich.) University, freshmen forwards Jordan Wells and Austin Lewis, and 6-foot-7 junior college transfer forward Pete Kpan.

“We’ve got a good group of young men,” Simmons said. “It’s a lot of young faces. They’re very energetic. We’re going to make mistakes early. But I think it’s a team that, once we get rolling, we can be very competitive within the schedule.”

The Cowboys open with Louisiana College on Nov. 9 before heading to LSU and first-year Tigers head coach Johnny Jones on Nov. 13.

After their first real practice of the season, the Cowboys will join the two-time defending Southland Conference champion Cowgirls at Memorial Gym for the annual “Sneak Peek” event.

The Cowgirls have been practicing since Oct. 1, but also have plenty of new faces who fans will be seeing for the first time. The women’s team has five freshmen and two transfers.

“The attitudes are great, the energy is pretty good,” said Cowgirls head coach Brooks Donald Williams. “We’re looking forward to (tonight).”

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