OXFORD -- The Oxford College men's basketball team will hold its first official workout of the 2011-2012 season on Saturday, but the Eagles are already flying high in the eyes of opposing coaches.
Last week, it was announced that Oxford was ranked No. 1 among five teams in the Georgia Junior College Athletic Association's new Division III poll. Based on a vote by conference coaches, the Eagles were top ranked with 21 points, followed by West Georgia Technical College (18 points), Middle Georgia Technical College (17 points), Georgia Northwestern Technical College (15 points) and Southern Crescent Technical College (six points).
"We're excited to be ranked No. 1," said Oxford coach Roderick Stubbs on Monday. "We know it's a pre-season poll and that we have to play well to earn it, but it's definitely exciting going into the season No. 1."
Stubbs added that instead of hosting a "Midnight Madness" event on the first day of practice, an official team introduction -- complete with performances by the school's cheerleaders and dance team -- will come at a late-night fete on Wednesday, Oct. 19.
The Eagles will host Central Georgia Tech in an exhibition game at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 22, and will officially open the season at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 1, when Truett-McConnell's junior varsity comes calling at historic Williams Gymnasium.
Despite a 12-17 record last season, the Eagles qualified for a NJCAA region playoff berth, the fourth time an Oxford team has reached the postseason in Stubbs' six-years as coach. The team returns a pair of gifted veterans, 6-foot-5 guard/forward Evan Dunwoodie (West Forsyth) and 6-0 guard Stephen Simmons from Tampa, Fla.
Last season, Simmons led Oxford with 16 points and 3.4 rebounds per game while Dunwoodie added 10 points and four rebounds a night. Both were named to the coaches' preseason All-Region first team.The Eagles recorded a memorable offseason by recruiting 11 new players, including area prep standouts Alex Ordu (Newton), Mitch Lee (Loganville Christian Academy), Zachary Lynn (Buford) and Byron Stuffken (Oconee County).
"As I start my seventh year, this is the most talented group I've had, depth-wise," said Stubbs, whose team ranked second among all NJCAA hoops programs in 2010-11 with a composite grade-point average of 3.24, second only to Eastern Arizona College, which posted a 3.4 team GPA. "We did have quite a few sophomores last year, but we brought in 11 players, which is a huge class. And some of those freshmen will have to contribute soon."
The Eagles will open the season at home on Nov. 1 but won't be play in Oxford again for almost three weeks, hosting Caldwell Technical on Nov. 20. But Oxford's schedule is bottom heavy with home games, with seven of its last nine games set for Williams Gymnasium.
And the Eagles feed off the energy they get from an enthused home crowd, said Stubbs.
"It's pretty exciting," he said. "The students are really excited about the upcoming season. We have a small gym, but the students really come out and support us. The players are also excited about the season."
For more information about Oxford College's men's basketball team, visit www.oxford.emory.edu/athletics .
Lady Eagles host GMC today
The Oxford College women's soccer team has posted a record of 2-6 this season and will host Georgia Military College at 7 p.m. today at Bivings Field on the Oxford campus. The Lady Eagles' remaining games include at University of South Carolina-Lancaster on Sunday and Gordon College visiting Oxford on Saturday, Oct. 8.