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Motlow State Community College
P.O. Box 8500
Lynchburg, TN 37352-8500
(931) 393-1500

Academics is Primary Focus of

Motlow Athletes

Robert Holman, Sports Editor, Tullahoma News
Reprinted with Permission

Motlow College has made a significant effort to increase awareness of its athletic program. The school, located just 2 miles from Tullahoma across the Moore County line, held a Meet the Bucks/Media Day on August 31, introducing athletic staff and players to local media and the school's student body.

2011-12 Lady Bucks Basketball Team
2011-12 Lady Bucks basketball team at Meet the Bucks Media Day
The event was open to the public and included a dunk contest by various players from the men's basketball team, as well as a 3-point shooting contest by both the men's and women's hoop teams.

But despite the school's effort to bring attention to all of its athletic entities, which includes basketball, softball and baseball, there was one overwhelming theme as each coach spoke to the media - education. While the school hit the ground running with a new athletic director and interim women's basketball coach in Jerry Nichols, it was obvious that education is still the primary focus at Motlow.

"Here we are all about education - student success," said Nichols. "We graduated 83 percent of our student athletes last year - the highest rate of any community college in Tennessee. I've found that the kids actually like the library more than they like the gym. I thought they would like the gym better, but they love the library."

2011-12 Motlow Bucks Baseball Team
2011-12 Bucks baseball team at Meet the Bucks Media Day
Nichols replaced longtime AD Gary Barfield in May. While he coaches the men's basketball team, he'll also serve as the interim coach for the women's team after Karen Serra resigned at the end of the school year.

Nichols said that he was eager to tackle the new assignments and he regularly spends 12-hour days at the college. His energetic approach spilled over to the athletes he's working with. It will also be necessary to sustain that energy as he wears multiple hats at the college.

Among the tasks at hand is revamping the school's athletic image, from the play on the field and in the gym, to the upgrading of the athletic facilities. The gym has had a facelift, with the old yellow and forest green giving way to a bolder green with a true gold and black trim.

2011-12 Lady Bucks Softball Team
2011-12 Lady Bucks softball team at Meet the Bucks Media Day
The Bucks and Lady Bucks have new logos as well, with each team having separate logos. The Bucks now have a much better defined logo, while the Lady Bucks logo is not quite as masculine. Those are just the tiny changes.

The school has also upgraded locker room and weight room facilities inside Copperweld Arena.

"Our locker rooms are as good as you will find across the state for a community college," said Nichols as he gave a tour of the facility. "We have great facilities here."

Head baseball coach Dan McShea, who will be entering his sixth season as Motlow's coach, echoes Nichols. McShea said that it's important to get prospective student athletes to the Moore County campus when recruiting.

"We need you to come on campus (when recruiting)," said McShea. "We need you to see our facilities." McShea also kept with the overriding theme, stressing academics and the importance of education for everyone who comes through Motlow, even if they"re planning on playing elsewhere or perhaps in the majors.

2011-12 Motlow Bucks Basketball Team
2011-12 Bucks basketball team at Meet the Bucks Media Day
"I experienced that first hand. 'I'm gonna go play pro ball,'" recalled McShea of his collegiate playing days at Ole Miss. "Then I'm injured and out for two years and I'm too old to play. "We stress the importance of academics here. If a player has a 3.0 GPA or higher, then he doesn't have to run the next semester."

"We want to fight to get good players who get good grades."

Both of the veteran coaches were excited about their respective upcoming seasons, and both expect to put a good product on the field. They also expect more from their athletes than just two seasons at Motlow.

"It's been a really successful time here at Motlow, (but) we don't want our athletes to stop here at Motlow," added Nichols.

Part of the recruiting process at Motlow centers around the high level of play the Bucks and Lady Bucks are expected to produce. That high level of play also gives the majority of Motlow College athletes the ability to continue their athletic careers at four-year schools once they've completed their work at Motlow. It's a trend that Nichols believes will continue.

Motlow's newest coach, Tori Raby-Gentry, replaced Barfield as the head softball coach. She played at Motlow in the late 90s, was a volunteer assistant at Motlow while working on her Masters, and has had coaching stints at St. Catherine College in Kentucky, Presbyterian College in South Carolina and most recently UVA-Wise in Virginia.

Rabi-Gentry, who is a Fayetteville native, understands the success that the softball program has enjoyed and set out immediately on the recruiting trail to help fill out her roster. Nichols, who said he's excited about the school's coaching lineup, added that he feels when the Motlow coaches are recruiting that they have just about all the tools they need.

"As long as it has a library and a gym - it's the same as living in Memphis," said Nichols. "I ask kids all the time, what do you do at home? They play video games, they study and they go to the gym. They can do all of that here.

"Kids come here and they have the opportunity to focus on an education. (We) go after kids who fit this system."

Rabi-Gentry said that recruiting was top priority when taking over the program. She has four players from Manchester, Tullahoma or Shelbyville - including former THS standout Meghan Brayton.

Nichols said that expectations are high and that all of the athletic teams should be successful.

"The girls (basketball team) should be very productive," he said. "Last year, our young men made it to the (TCCAA) championship game. That game still sits in the back of my mind. We want to bring that gold ball back to Motlow.

"I promise you there is no one in the nation working harder than Motlow College."

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