The St. Francis men’s and women’s basketball fans will need to check their programs closely this season.

The women feature nine newcomers while the men have eight.

Despite these new players, women’s coach Jill Poe expressed confidence about how well her team will perform this year.

“I think that we’re going to be good,” Poe said to a media day luncheon at the Maurice Stokes Athletics Center. “No, let me change that. I know we are going to be good.”

Both the men’s team and the women’s team lost some key players from last year. The women graduated four starters, including the second-leading scorer and rebounder in women’s history, Beth Swink.

The men lost one of the top scorers in St. Francis history in Darshan Luckey, along with their inside force, 6-7 center Jason Osborne. The men return one starter, point guard Garrett Farha, along with shooting guard Rahsaan Benton, both seniors.

“Any time that you have many newcomers, whether they are junior college transfers or true freshmen, you just hope to get a great effort every night,” said men’s coach Bobby Jones, who is entering his seventh season. “Up to this point, the effort has been there every day in practice, the enthusiasm has been there in practice, and the leadership from our three seniors has been there.”

The men finished 15-13 last year, including 10-8 in the Northeast Conference. After an exhibition game against Juniata College on Saturday at the Stokes Center, the Red Flash will open their season by traveling to Syracuse on Nov. 8 to face Cornell in the Carrier Dome in the first round of the Coaches vs. Cancer tournament. Syracuse and Bethune-Cookman are the other two teams in the East Regional of the event.

Jones lists Farha and Benton as the starting guards, with 6-9 junior J.R. Enright at center, 6-6 senior Winston Robinson at the power forward, and 6-5 junior college transfer Jelani Lawrence at small forward.

The men have been picked by the NEC coaches to finish ninth in the league, and the women have been selected to finish fourth. Fairleigh Dickinson is picked to win the NEC men’s title, with Robert Morris being named to win the women’s championship.

The St. Francis women have captured nine of the past 10 NEC tournament championships, giving them the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament in each of those seasons.

Amber Hein, who was a junior college transfer last year, does not think that the NEC coaches will be correct.

“We were picked to only finish fourth, which is not normal for us,” Hein said. “I know that we are going to be better than that.

“We are going to be as good as we were last year, if not better. We have the talent to do that.”

The women will travel to Eugene, Ore., to compete in the Women’s Sports Foundation Challenge. The Red Flash women will face the University of Oregon, with the other teams in the tournament including Temple and Michigan.

Poe lists her starters as Hein at point guard, junior college transfer Christie Ayers at shooting guard, 5-10 senior Ruth Jimmerson at small forward, and 6-1 sophomore Emily Bollinger at power forward.

Beth Halter, a 6-3 junior college transfer, will be the center.

Poe has a 46-16 record (74 percent) in her two years as coach.

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