West Alabama among Alabama’s best basketball clubs

Miles, Stillman, Jax State, and UAH are also having good years

If you’re looking for good basketball in the state of Alabama, chase down the team causing a stir in the tiny town of Livingston. The University of West Alabama Tigers (21-6, 16-4 conference) recently became the Gulf South Conference’s co-champions after an overtime win at Mississippi College this past week. The Tigers share the championship with Valdosta State.

So far it’s been quite a remarkable run for Allen Sharpe, who took over as the head coach at West Alabama (formerly Livingston University) in 2014. In only his first year, Sharpe broke a school record when his team posted a 22-win season. After taking a step back in his second and third seasons, Sharpe righted the ship in 2017-18 with a 19-9 (13-7 conference) record. A former junior college head coach at Wallace State Community College (AL) and former D-II coach at Arkansas-Monticello, Sharpe played at Lipscomb University under legendary coach Don Meyer.

UWA head coach Allen Sharpe | Courtesy UWA Athletics

This year Sharpe’s team has been streaky—in a good way. Recently, the Tigers reeled off 11 wins in a row before dropping a conference game at home to Valdosta State that could have clinched the regular-season crown. Earlier in the season the team won seven in a row, and except for a 30-point loss to UAB in Bartow Arena, every game was close.

The Tigers are paced by the strong backcourt tandem of Josh Fleming and LaJuan Hardy. Fleming (13.3 points per game) is a 5-foot-9 guard hailing from New Haven, Connecticut, and Hardy (13.5 ppg) is a 5’11” guard from Mobile. Six-foot-six forward Ricky Dunnaway (9.3 ppg and 6.4 rebounds per game), 6’7” forward DeAndre Harper (7.3 ppg and 6.3 rpg), and Demopolis native Charles Tripp (7.2 ppg, 3.3 rpg) comprise a formidable frontcourt.

Hardy scored 27 points against Lee University on January 19, and Harper hauled down 23 boards against Christian Brothers on January 10, both individual highs this season.

UWA’s Josh Fleming | Courtesy UWA Athletics

The Tigers will host #7 seed Lee University in the first round of the Gulf South Conference tournament, which begins on Tuesday, March 5, at various campus sites. The conference semifinals and championship game will be held on Saturday, March 9 and Sunday, March 10, at the Pete Hanna Center on the campus of Samford University in Birmingham.

If the Tigers can get streaky, look for them to make a run at the championship. It would be the first conference title since the school changed its name to West Alabama. The only other Gulf South conference title in school history was captured in 1982, when Livingston defeated Tennessee-Martin at Pruitt Hall in Livingston.

But West Alabama isn’t the only team making hay in the state of Alabama. Of course, Auburn and Alabama get most of the pub, but what about the other schools?

Let’s take a look at how many of the other four-year schools faring:

 

UAB Blazers

Record: 17-12 overall, 9-7 conference

Head coach: Robert Ehsan

Conference: Conference USA

 

University of North Alabama (UNA) Lions

Record:  10-21 overall, 7-9 conference

Head coach: Tony Pujol

Conference: Atlantic Sun

 

University of Alabama-Huntsville (UAH) Chargers

Record: 22-6 overall, 15-5 conference

Head coach: Lennie Acuff

Conference: Gulf South

NOTES: With a 15-5 conference record, UAH trails only West Alabama and Valdosta State in the Gulf South standings. UAH won conference championships in 2012, 2015, and 2017.

JSU’s Marlon Hunter | Courtesy JSU Athletics

 

Jacksonville State Gamecocks

Record: 23-8 overall, 15-3 conference

Head coach: Ray Harper

Conference: Ohio Valley (OVC)

NOTES:  Jacksonville State is currently in third place in the Ohio Valley Conference (OVC). Murray State and Belmont are tied for the conference lead with a 16-2 record.

 

Birmingham-Southern Panthers

Record: 12-13 overall, 6-8 conference

Head coach: Chris Graves

Conference: Southern Athletic Association

 

Stillman Tigers

Record: 27-5 overall, 18-4 conference

Head coach: John Teasley

Conference: Southern States Athletic Conference

NOTES: With a share of the conference regular season title, Stillman clinched a No.1 seed in the NAIA Division 1 Men’s Basketball National Tournament in Kansas City, Missouri. The Tigers are currently ranked fifth in the NAIA Coaches’ Top 25 poll.

 

Miles Golden Bears

Record: 21-8 overall, 14-4 conference

Head coach: Fred Watson

Conference: Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC)

 

Faulkner Eagles  

Record: 19-12 overall, 12-10 conference

Head coach: Scott Sanderson

Conference: Southern States Athletic Conference

 

University of Mobile Rams

Record: 10-17 overall, 7-15 conference

Head coach: Joe Niland

Conference: Southern States Athletic Conference

 

South Alabama Jaguars

Record: 14-15 overall, 7-9 conference

Head coach: Richie Riley

Conference: Sun Belt

 

Troy Trojans

Record: 11-17 overall, 4-12 conference

Head coach: Phil Cunningham

Conference: Sun Belt

 

Auburn University-Montgomery Warhawks

Record: 8-20 overall, 4-16 conference

Head coach: Michael Cheaney

Conference: Gulf South H&A

 

Cover photo courtesy UWA Athletics 

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Al Blanton

Al Blanton

Born in Jasper, Alabama, Al is the owner and publisher of Blanton Media Group.
Al Blanton

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