Prairie View A&M Panthers
Conference/Location: SWAC (Prairie View, TX)
2015-2016 Record: 7-24 (7-11)
Head Coach: Byron Smith (1st Season)
Leading Returner: Admassu Williams (10.4 PPG, 6.4 RPG)
Coming off a season in which they won just seven games, it’s hard to take the 2015-2016 campaign for Prairie View A&M, as an accurate representation of this Panthers program. There’s few teams in the country that had a more chaotic time than Prairie View A&M did last year.
The Panthers won just one game through the first three months of the season, causing then-head coach Byron Rimm II to resign from the 1-18 team in late January. The school decided to hand the head coaching reigns to assistant coach Byron Smith, who guided the Panthers to an impressive 6-6 finish to the season. The once-SWAC cellar-dwellers finished their conference slate with a 6-5 record under Smith, rising to 6th place in the standings in the process. The turnaround within the Panthers program, in such a short time, was remarkable and unheralded.
Prairie View A&M will be hoping to roll over some of that late season momentum into the 2016-2017 campaign, where they return three of their top four scorers from a season ago, including forward Admassu Williams (10.4 PPG), guard Tevin Bellinger (10.1 PPG) and swingman Zachary Hamilton (8.0 PPG). The Panthers will also likely rely heavily on a collection of new faces, headlined by UNLV transfer guard Daquan Cook, arguably the team’s best talent. Point guard Ja’Donta Blakley and forward Shay’rone Jett should also provide some much needed leadership and production for this Panthers’ group, who will be aiming for a double-digit win total in the first full season under head coach Byron Smith.
This season, the Panthers won their lone exhibition game against Champion Christian, 101-40. Champion Christian is a school that competes in the independent ACCA (Association of Christian College Athletics). In the tune-up game, Prairie View A&M shot 68% from the field as a team, in addition to forcing 27 turnovers on the night.
Player To Watch
Guard - Daquan Cook (Senior)
A superbly gifted guard out of Baltimore, Maryland, Cook played the first three years of his college career at UNLV, before being dismissed from the team back in February and choosing to transfer to Prairie View A&M. Cook will now have the potential to be the focal point of a Panthers roster looking to replace last season’s leading scorer Jayrn Johnson (12.4 PPG). While Cook’s stay in Sin City was overshadowed by injury and suspension, the chance for a new start with Prairie View A&M looks to be the change needed in his career to finally display some of his on-court abilities. Cook led all scorers in the team’s victory of Champion Christian with 18 points on 7-9 shooting in 21 minutes of action.