McNeese State head men's basketball coach Dave Simmons. (American Press)
Last Modified: Thursday, August 02, 2012 8:24 PM
McNeese State’s 2012-13 men’s basketball schedule includes a trip to one of the game’s greatest venues, a DeRidder High class reunion, home games against old rivals and a pair of games against a brand-new one.
The toughest challenge for the Cowboys will certainly come on Dec. 22 with a visit to five-time national champion North Carolina.“It was an opportunity for us to play historically one of the top five programs in the country,” said McNeese coach Dave Simmons. “They lost great players last year, but it’s North Carolina, so they’ll have great players again this year, all-Americans.”
McNeese lost its own honorable mention all-America, Pat Richard, to graduation, so the matchup with the Tar Heels will be an even bigger test for a team searching for a new leader.
“You’ve got to see what type of program you want yours to be,” Simmons said. “These kids see North Carolina all the time on TV. To take them to an environment like that and see if it builds some character and know how hard you have to work just to play with them, that’s an eye-opening thing for young men.”
The Cowboys open the season Nov. 9 at home against Louisiana College. The first road game is Nov. 13 at LSU, which is in its first year under Simmons’ friend and fellow DeRidder native, Johnny Jones.
“We’re such good friends, neither one of us brought up conversation of playing each other (before), but it’s LSU,” Simmons said. “We’re playing our flagship in the state of Louisiana. It’s an identity game for us. But it’s no different than any other game. It’s about McNeese vs. LSU, not Dave Simmons vs. Johnny Jones.”
The Cowboys travel to Ole Miss (Nov. 20) and Texas Tech (Dec. 16) to round out their major conference opponents.
McNeese plays host to Louisiana-Lafayette (Dec. 8) and Louisiana Tech (Dec. 12). The Tech game is one of three at the Lake Charles Civic Center, with Stephen F. Austin (Jan. 30) and Northwestern State (Feb. 3) being the others.
“I think you’ve got best of both worlds when we play downtown as well as our main home court,” Simmons said. “The older generation remember the great games at the Civic Center and it gives them a chance to reminisce and get back to the Civic Center.”
McNeese welcomes new Southland Conference rival Oral Roberts to Burton Coliseum on Feb. 28. Like all conference games this season, it will be a men’s-women’s doubleheader.
“Hopefully that will get more people out watching them both play in a night,” Simmons said. “I think this will work, especially with our community supporting both teams. A person doesn’t have to give up two nights a week to see both clubs.”