SAU announces Basketball Signing Class

August 29, 2019


Andy Sharpe
Southern Arkansas coach Andy Sharpe. Photo by SAU Sports Information

MAGNOLIA – Coming on the heels of an NCAA Era-best record in the program’s 24-year Division II membership, Southern Arkansas University Head Men’s Basketball Coach Andy Sharpe has announced the signing of eight student-athletes for the upcoming 2019-2020 season.

“A lot of credit goes to former associate head coach, David Anderson, for putting together this class,” noted Sharpe. He added “We worked tirelessly to continue to sign quality, local high school student-athletes in our geographic region who will represent our program the right way, embrace our culture, and continue to advance our program to state, conference, and national relevance.”  

Eight new recruits, seven true freshman and one transfer, reported to campus earlier this month. “We’ve completely sold out to staying young and continuing to build our program with high school guys that will be in our program for 4-5 years,” noted Sharpe. 

The seven true freshmen include two Arkansans in Logan Bradley (Booneville) and Connor Harvey (Mena), two Louisianans in Jessie Davis, Jr. and Deven Melancon from Shreveport, two Texans in Dodge Brown (Commerce) and Josh Ukpe (Bonham), and finally Zak-Blue Shagouire with the longest commute of 4,500 miles from East London, England.  Dru Smith of state Fair Community College joins the program as the only transfer after two successful years as a roadrunner. 

The eight newcomers will join six letter winners with First Team All-GAC selection Devante Brooks leading the charge.  Also retuning is speedy point guard Aaron Lucas, sharp-shooting guard Gabe Gilliam, former Magnolia Panther and Mulerider defensive stopper Trey Davis, GAC Freshmen of the Year Jalen Brooks, and finally back in the fold is a healthy Charlie Thomas. “Those six guys will be looked to by our staff to provide incredible leadership as expectations for our program continue to rise on a yearly basis.  They’ve all played some huge roles for us previously as freshmen and sophomores and now it is their team and I’m excited to see how they move us forward”, commented Sharpe. 

Three red-shirt freshmen will also make their debuts this season in point guard Ray Fresh, shooting guard Kam Roelke, and swingman Trent Ivy.  “I am excited to see Kam, Ray, and Trent be activated after a very rewarding and beneficial red-shirt season”, remarked, Sharpe.  “All three of those guys approached their redshirt year the right way and all three have grown tremendously and are ready to compete for roles this coming season”, continued, Sharpe. 


Zakeus-Blue Shagourie – Forward, 6’8
Hometown / Previous School: East London, England / Sunlive Basketball Academy
Notable Stats: 7ppg/11rpg/ 2bpg

– Two time selection to Loul Deng UK Top 50 Camp
– Selected to Pau Gasol Rising Star Camp in Barcelona, Spain
– 2018 National Basketball Cup Winner
– Selected to All Star Classic

Coach Sharpe on Shagourie: “Zak is our first international recruit in my seven years at SAU.  I’ve gotten to know Zak’s coach, Josh Merrington, over the years who is now at Sunlive Academy in Portugal and through his work with the British National Team and he highly recommended Zak as a long, active, athletic forward who is ready to play immediately.  Losing Wes Nosakhare to graduation will give Zak the opportunity to come in and compete for a major role in our rotation.  Zak has played at a high level internationally for several years highlighted by an appearance in the invitation-only 24 man HOOPSFIX All Star Classic.  I’m excited Zak is a Mulerider and looking forward to getting him on the floor!”

Josh Upke

Josh Ukpe – Guard, 6’2
Hometown / Previous School: Bonham, TX / Bonham High School
Notable Stats: 29 ppg / 8 rpg during the 2019-2019 season

– TABC All-Region Class 3A Region 2 Selection
– District 10 – 3A MVP
– All Texomaland  – 2nd Team Selection
– Led the 18-19 Bonham Warriors to a program best 26-7 record
– Recorded most points in a single season in Bonham history with 902.    

Coach Sharpe on Ukpe: “Josh is a guy we have really high hopes for.  He had a highly decorated career at Bonham where they had a ton of success largely due to Josh and his ability to score the ball.  Josh is an athletic playmaker and has shown he’s a potent scorer at the high school level.  I’m excited to see Josh continue to grow here at SAU.  Like with any freshmen, he’s going to experience some growing pains, but Josh has unlimited potential and we are excited to see him take some big strides in the weight room.  We feel in our strength and conditioning program we can help take Josh to another level.  I’m really excited to see Josh blossom here at SAU. 

Logan Bradley

Logan Bradley – Forward, 6’8
Hometown / Previous School: Booneville, AR / Booneville High School
Notable Stats: 14.2 ppg / 6.9 rpg / 3.6 bpg during the 2018-2019 season

– 3 Year Starter and Co-Captain as a SR for the 29-4 Booneville Bearcats
– 2nd All Time Leading Scorer and Rebounder in Booneville High history
– Back to Back All-Conference selection
– Selected to 2019 All-State and All-State Tournament team
– Honor graduate and National Beta Club Member

Coach Sharpe on Bradley: “Logan was an early signee and we are excited to get him plugged into our program.  Logan is a big-bodied forward with an unexpected shooting stroke to the 3pt line.  Logan will be really good in pick & pop actions with his ability to shoot the ball.  There are not many true freshmen that are able to physically play right away in our league, so we are also excited to get Logan into our strength and conditioning program and see him make the jump from high school to our physical style of play.” 


Connor Harvey – Guard, 6’1
Hometown / Previous School: Mena, AR / Mena High School
Notable Stats: 23.6 ppg / 2.6 apg / 5.2 rpg during the 2018-2019 season

– Three time All-Conference selection
– Two time All-State honoree  
– Polk County Player of the Year
– Selected to 42 Sports Super Team
– Tallied 1,427 career points while sinking 114 three pointers his SR season at 41%

Coach Sharpe on Harvey: “Connor is a guy I think we were fortunate to snag.  There is such a premium put on being able to extend the defense and efficiently knock down three pointers and Connor does that very, very well.  Any time a guy can make over 40% of his three point attempts at the volume Connor was getting is impressive.  When we signed Connor he said he’d like to know the all-time marks for three pointers made in a season, a career, and three point percentage that those were marks he planned on taking aim at over the course of his career.  I think Connor is going to make a run at some of those records for one simple reason, he’s a gym rat and he’s going to put in the time.  We are excited to have Connor in the fold at SAU!”


Dodge Brown – Guard, 6′
Hometown / Previous School: Commerce, TX / Commerce High School
Notable Stats: 22 ppg / 6 apg during the 2018-2019 season

– Texas 3A State Player of the Year
– Back to Back All State Selection
– Back to Back District MVP
– Selected to TABC All Star Game
– Tallied 2,349 career points while sinking 364 career three pointers  

Coach Sharpe on Brown: “Dodge the epitome of what we are looking for in a recruit.  His high school accolades speak for themselves … he was the Texas 3A State Player of the Year, scored over 2,000 career points, and the list goes on and on, but it’s the other stuff that really drew me to Dodge.  He is a gym rat … played for his dad, Roger Brown at Commerce, he graduated with a 3.97 GPA, was the student body president at Commerce High, and is going to start day one here at SAU with a ton of college credit already under his belt.  Dodge is self-made and a high achiever and we are excited he is a Mulerider!”


Dru Smith – Guard, 6’3
Hometown / Previous School: Kansas City, MO / State Fair Community College
Notable Stats: 11.5 ppg / 2.8 apg / 3.5 rpg during the 2018-2019 season

– Career 10.1 ppg scorer at State Fair Community College                                                             
– Broke the 20 point plateau three times over the course of the 2018-2019 season
– Scored a season high 21 points against nationally ranked Northwest FL on 8-14 shooting         
– State Fair Community College 3rd leading scorer
– State Fair Community College team leader in three point makes and percentage

Coach Sharpe on Smith: “Dru is our only transfer.  We felt like we have a great core of guys returning to the program that have played big roles over the past couple years and some guys coming up that red-shirted last year that will also be pushing for meaningful roles and while we do plan on sustaining our success, the next couple years are big for our program.  We feel like Dru gives us another older guy that can play multiple positions, has the ability to shoot the three and plays extremely hard.  He played for a very well-respected program at State Fair and we feel Dru will fit in well with our culture and how we expect to do things.  I’m excited to throw Dru in mix and create even more competition than we currently have … it should make for some intense workouts and practices.”


Jessie Davis, Jr.  – Forward, 6’7
Hometown / Previous School: Shreveport, LA / Red River High School
Notable Stats: 18ppg / 11 rpg / 5 bpg during the 2018-2019 season

– Three time First Team All-District Selection 
– 2nd Team All Area and Honorable Mention All-State as a JR
– 2nd Team All Area and 2nd Team All-State Selection as a SR
– Louisiana High School Athletic Association All Star Selection – Slam Dunk Champion

Coach Sharpe on Davis: “Jessie is a guy we targeted early last summer and have built a fantastic relationship with over the past year.  Jessie is a rugged post player and is physically ready to play and we are expecting him to step in and contribute immediately.  As strong as Jessie is, he is also that athletic and has the ability to be an immediate impact guy defensively with his ability to block and alter shots. 


Deven Melancon – Guard, 6’4
Hometown / Previous School: Shreveport, LA / Loyola Prep
Notable Stats: 20 ppg / 5 rpg during the 2018-2019 season

– 1st Team All-District
– 1st Team All-City
– Honorable Mention All-State
– Selected to the I-20 Classic All Star Game

Coach Sharpe on Deven: “One of the areas we really wanted to focus in on with this class is targeting guys with high skill levels, particularly shooting the ball.  We got a taste of how hard it is to score when you are limited in your team’s ability to shoot the three many times last year.  If you look back to our hot start last year, we were really shooting the three ball well and at a 40% clip as a team.  We were really difficult to guard when we spread the floor out and could keep teams honest.  Deven gives us another guy that can really shoot it.  I told him on his visit that I can hear the sound his ball makes when it goes through the net and it is an unmistakable sound of a dead three shooter as we call them.  Deven is one of those guys when he lets it go, you think it’s going in no matter where he shoots it from.  Deven will also really benefit from structured strength program and we are excited to watch him continue to get better and better!”

Heber Springs opens Volleyball Season with Little Rock Hall

Panthers are coming off a program first state tournament appearance

Heber Springs volleyball coach Andrea Riggs gives instructions during a recent practice at the Panther Den. The Panthers open their 2019 season on Tuesday at home against Little Rock Hall. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

By Philip Seaton

HEBER SPRINGS – Last season was a year of firsts for the young Heber Springs volleyball program.

The Panthers had their first winning season in the program’s history which also resulted with their first state tournament berth.

Heber Springs will look to repeat on that 2018 performance when they open play today with a nonconference match with Little Rock Hall at the Panther Den beginning at 4:30 p.m.

Despite a three-set loss to the host Mena in the 4A state tournament in 2018, coach Andrea Riggs’ squad finished with a 13-8 overall record and a fourth-place finish in the 4A-Central conference in the seventh season of the sport at the Heber Springs.

“They have already said that (reaching the state tournament) has helped them and they know what to expect,” Riggs said. “That level of play helps any team. 

“We lost two big front row players (from last year), and replacing with two inexperienced players, that’s tough but we are going to try some things.”

One of the things that will be tried this year for the program is another first — a junior high team.

“We had been starting in the ninth grade,” Riggs said. “We’ve been behind the curve, some teams we play actually start volleyball in the fourth grade.”

She added that will help in building the program over the long term.

“We are always rebuilding, there hasn’t been a year where we haven’t been in this situation,” Riggs said. “Until we get something established where we have a good competitive group of junior high kids that we can move up, and maybe have some 10th-graders getting some varsity play, like you see with a traditional basketball program, then those things will help us long term.”

Though the junior high team will not compete in a conference this season because of the lateness of declaring the program, Riggs said that junior high team has potential.

“It will hands down be the best we’ve had at that age,” she said.

While the future of the program looks bright, Heber Springs returns four players from last season that saw significant varsity action.

Seniors McKenzie Becerra, Katelyn Vanlandingham and Zoe Monroe, and junior Ellie Skelton.

“Ellie is a setter, and she pretty much runs the court,” Riggs said. “McKenzie is the libero and she is pretty much our best defensive player. Katelyn is a super strong hitter, sees the court well and has great volleyball knowledge, while Zoey is a good all-around player that is going to work hard.”

Riggs credited all four varsity returners with being good servers and said overall that serving will be one of the strengths of the team.

“We will be shallow on our hitting,” she said. “Hopefully that will progress as the year goes.”

Several seniors will be moving up from the junior varsity squad and are expected to see significant playing time this season.

“Cheyenne Kent does a good job blocking the ball which is nice, and we’ll be looking for her hitting game to improve,” Riggs said. “Mayra Leal and Abi Finkbeiner are (also) both moving up from junior varsity.”

She said that is typical for her team with seniors seeing their first significant varsity experience their senior season.

“That’s when most are ready to play,” Riggs said.

A couple of underclassmen may be the exception to that rule as Riggs said that sophomore Kiley Wilson may see some varsity action, “if I have to pull another hitter, might have to go to her.” Junior Felicia Wildmon may also see varsity of action according to Riggs.

The Panthers will most likely go with a nine-player rotation.

“That is more than in years past,” Riggs said. “We are having to play on different strengths, having to move some things around and shift some things.

“There some things we haven’t necessarily run in the past that we are running this year to try to play on the different strengths we do have.”

Morrillton, which was undefeated in conference play last season, and Pulaski Academy, a 4A state semifinalist team in 2018, are expected to be the teams to beat in 4A-Central play according to Riggs. Other teams in the blended 5A-4A conference are Lonoke (a state tournament team last year), Joe T. Robinson, Clarksville, Dover and Forrest City.

When asked what it will take for Heber Springs to make it back to the state tournament, Riggs said, “work hard on every single play.”

She continued, “Are they playing the ball smart? They are going to have to think and be smart. We are not going to have the tallest girls on the court, so we are going to have to outwork them. If they go out and work, we’ll do fine. If they don’t, we’ll get beat.”

Heber Springs’ 2019 Schedule

The 2019 Heber Springs Panther Volleyball Team

The 2019 Heber Springs Senior Volleyball Players

Like Father, Like Daughter

Mooneyhan sets 4A state pole vault mark

April 30, 2019

By Philip Seaton

BATESVILLE – There has to be something about Pioneer Stadium at Batesville High School for the Mooneyhan family.

In 1987, then Heber Springs junior Walter Mooneyhan set a then personal best when he cleared 15-6 in the pole vault at the Pioneer Relays. Mooneyhan would go on to break the AA and state overall pole vault record a few weeks later at the AA state meet at Beebe when he cleared 15-4 and half inches. He bettered Heber Springs’ Mark Rezanka’s AA state record of 14-9 set in 1983 and Fort Smith Northside’s Greg Pickett’s overall mark of 15-4 set in 1975.

Flash forward to Tuesday at the 4A state track meet at Pioneer Stadium, Walter’s daughter, Pea Ridge junior Cassidy Mooneyhan, cleared 12-7 which is a new personal best but more importantly also set the new standard in 4A shattering the old mark of 11-6 set by Mena’s Staci Yahn in 2006.

She missed out on clearing 13-feet on three attempts.

“I have wanted to jump 13-feet since seventh-grade,” Cassidy said and though she didn’t get that height on Tuesday she was still elated to get the state record. “It think it’s so awesome.

“It’s something I’ve worked so long for and especially to get it my junior year instead of senior year really surprised me … that means a lot to me.”

The record also meant a lot to her vaulting coach, her father.

“I’ve been inside the ropes with her since she started in the seventh grade,” Walter said. “I have got to watch her progress all the way through. She’s incredibly coachable, incredibly aggressive, and incredibly competitive. On top of that she is a nice person. So that combination makes me incredibly proud.”

Walter, who works at the home office of Wal-Mart in Bentonville, has been a volunteer coach for the Pea Ridge track program since his daughter took an interest in the sport.

“I went through the registered volunteer program through the AAA (Arkansas Activities Association),” Walter said. “You have to specify a sport you are going to help with, and obviously I choose the vault, so I’ve gotten to be inside the ropes.”

Pea Ridge built a new track five years ago.

“The coaches didn’t have any experience in the vault, because they never had the vault,” Walter said. “Somehow everything just came together. (Pea Ridge) coach Heather Wade is the senior high girls track coach and she has been gracious enough to let me inside the ropes.”

While Walter’s vaulting exploits are legendary in the track and field circles, Cassidy was unaware of her father’s accomplishments.

“I didn’t even know he was a good vaulter,” Cassidy said. “He’s the most humble person ever. He rarely talked it, so I didn’t even know he was a good vaulter. All through the years, he slowly started talking about it more. I realized after the first year (that I was vaulting that) he was very good.”

If Cassidy didn’t know of her father’s exploits, how did she get started in the sport?

“A girl I knew in the was doing it when I was in seventh grade, so I tried it,” Cassidy said. “So I came home, told him I wanted to try it and he just came and helped us out.”

Cassidy’s also finished second in the 100 and 200, behind teammate Blakelee Winn in both races, to help her team accomplish something her father’s never did, win a state title.

“It means so much,” Cassidy said. “I think it’s so cool to follow in his footsteps and to have him here with me.”