There hasn’t been much to be incredibly happy about with the University of Central Arkansas men’s basketball program for some time now.
Since UCA joined Division I in 2006, there has been just one winning season, which was 2017-18’s team that went 18-17 overall, 10-8 in the Southland Conference, an SLC Tournament win and a win in the Conference Basketball Invitational.
Last year’s team followed that campaign up with a 14-19 overall record and an 8-10 conference record.
That year was the first season without program points leader Jordan Howard since now former head coach Russ Pennell took over in 2014.
The program has been marred by low Academic Progress Rate scores under former coach and NBA player Corliss Williamson and poor records when Pennell took over.
The program took another blow this season as Pennell and the university agreed to part ways after Pennell had taken an indefinite leave of absence.
There has been much speculation as to what has caused this, and I think that it would be unfair to Pennell for me to speculate as well.
With the university and those associated with the situation being tight-lipped and keeping things close to the vest, we may not ever know what led to this decision, or it may take a while to get anything out if there is anything.
Regardless of why this situation occurred, the program has had some bright spots during Pennell’s tenure.
As previously mentioned, Howard became the program’s all-time leading scorer, current junior Hayden Koval has far surpassed career blocks leader Durrell Nevels’ 148 blocked shots.
Before Saturday’s game against Sam Houston State, Koval sat with 235 career blocks.
Junior point guard DeAndre Jones passed Pennell in all-time program assists and the Bears have won SLC Tournament games.
The program may not be where many want it and that is understandable.
As stated earlier, there hasn’t been much to be happy about.
And there is plenty of season left this year, but some of the losses the team has had has been ugly.
While they are two different teams and two different games, Duke’s 105-54 man-handling of UCA on Nov. 12, and then Stephen F. Austin’s triumphant 85-83 win over Duke on Nov. 26 doesn’t exactly spell confidence.
Again, there is plenty of time to write the ship and get things going.
After all, the Bears were picked to finish fifth in the conference in the preseason polls and are 3-2 without Pennell as assistant head coach Anthony Boone has taken the reigns.
We’ll have to wait to see what the fallout from Pennell and the program parting ways is as national signing day for basketball begins April 15.
Will Boone eventually get the interim tag removed and become the head man?
I guess a lot of that has to do with what athletic director Brad Teague wants in the next men’s basketball coach.
Will the Bears lose potential recruits because of the Pennell situation?
High-scoring Waldron High School senior and former UCA commit Payton Brown was granted a release from his letter of intent since the Pennell news was released.
We’ll see what happens from here and can only hope for the best.