They’ve helped the Centre College men to three straight conference titles and have won 76 percent of their games, so when seniors Jeff Mullaney, James Melloan and Greg Ross walk off the court Sunday after their final regular season game, they will be leaving a legacy that will be hard to top.
“This senior class has been really successful and we are going to miss them next year,”¿Centre coach Greg Mason said.
Going into the weekend, the seniors are 77-24. The Colonels will seek a fourth straight Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference title next week.
Mason said the 1989 class is generally regarded as the best senior class in Centre history, and its record was 78-37.
“Obviously, this is a sound group. These are three guys who have worked hard,”¿Mason said.
Centre (15-7, 9-5 SCAC) hosts Millsaps tonight and finishes the regular season Sunday against Rhodes. The Colonels have won two of three going into this weekend, and Mason would love to see his seniors go out on a winning note.
Mullaney and Melloan have been around all four years, while Ross came in during the second semester of his sophomore year.
Mullaney has been a constant for the Colonels. He was the sixth man his freshman season, and has started ever since. He has 1,141 points with 303 assists and 172 turnovers in his career. Last year, he was named third-team All-SCAC
“Jeff has a really high basketball IQ. Our assist per game (10) is number one in the country and Jeff is a huge part of that. He really studies the games,”¿Mason said. “He was our sixth man as a freshman, but played starters minutes at 23-24 minutes per game.”
This season, Mullaney has 68 assists to just 32 turnovers, a 2.1-1 ratio.
“On the perimeter, I’m not sure anyone in the conference has as high of a basketball IQ as Jeff,”¿Mason said.
Ross transferred from the College of Wooster after the first semester of his sophomore year. He played in just nine games as a sophomore, but has still scored 813 points and grabbed 337 rebounds in 2 1/2 seasons.
He was named first team All-SCAC and second team All-South by the National Association of Basketball Coaches. He was also named the SCAC Tournament MVP, breaking the tournament scoring mark at 23.7 points per game last season. He also set a tournament scoring record with 38 in a first-round win over Hendrix.
“We didn’t know a lot abut Greg, but we got a couple of practices in and saw his skill level was high, and he really had a knack for scoring the ball. He practiced one week, and we put him the game,”¿Mason said. “He’s like (Jarnell) Stokes of Tennessee. His first year, he was learning our system. Last year, he was voted the second-best player in the SCAC, and this year he’s been as good as last year.”
Melloan, a 6-7 center, has been a valuable inside presence off the bench, averaging 2.4 points and 2.5 rebounds per game. Mason likened Melloan to former Kentucky player Josh Harrellson.
“He’s a big guy who got in the best shape of his career and he has earned his success, and we needed it, too,”¿Mason said. “Because we have one of our smallest teams in year, his size and energy have been very important for us.”
Tonight, Centre faces a Millsaps team that is 6-18 overall and 4-11 in the league. Centre beat Millsaps 65-50 on Dec. 2.
“Millsaps does not have a great record, but they still have the same program and staff that beat us in 2008 (in SCAC final), and they have a lot of shooters,”¿Mason said. “We are going to have to guard the 3 and get all of the 50-50 loose balls.”
On Sunday, Centre will play a Rhodes, which handed Centre a 72-58 defeat on Dec. 4. The Lynx are a game ahead of Centre in the SCAC¿East, sitting at 10-4 and 15-8 overall.
“Rhodes took us to the woodshed, so we have to play much better. We have to play our ‘A’ game against Rhodes,”¿Mason said. “These two games, especially against Rhodes, will probably be for the No. 2 seed in the East (for the SCAC tournament).”
With such a grueling travel schedule this year, Mason has dialed down the practices to keep players fresh.
“Out travel this year has been pretty demanding,”¿Mason said. “(Women’s coach) Wendie (Austin-Robinson) and I, we’re making sure the teams are fresh for the games. So we’ve limited practice times and make sure we’re getting our minds right and are ready for the challenge.”
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The Centre women can clinch the SCAC regular-season championship with a win over Millsaps in tonight’s first game.