MURRELL COLUMN: LU basketball finds latest power player

Published 9:06 pm Thursday, September 29, 2016

Basketball season.

Say these words before November, and someone somewhere starts to cringe. Knee-deep into football, it’s not even cool enough outside to think about it, one might say.

Don’t look at me. Sports seasons just cross paths like that.

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No matter who’s complaining, no one on the Lamar men’s or women’s basketball team would care. They’re starting practice this weekend, seemingly earlier than in past years.

The LU men’s team begins practice at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Lamar State College-Port Arthur. The women’s team will get started at 9 a.m. Sunday at McDonald Gym.

Possibly by the time the Cardinal women finish their opening practice, a new addition to both programs will be unveiled.

It’s an array of video scoreboards. A much needed one, at that.

Still one of the crown jewels of Southland Conference basketball, the soon-to-be 32-year-old Montagne Center had never changed its scoreboard since it first opened, but it stood the test of time. Big Red Sports Network, the on-campus video production company, has posted a live feed of the installation of the videoboard at

In an age of drawing recruits with fancy jerseys and constantly redone floors, the Montagne has unleashed its latest power player that’ll always rise above the rim, literally.

It’s long awaited eye candy for the Montagne, which itself is eye candy among mid-major basketball facilities.

“It is time to upgrade to something state-of-the-art,” Norman Bellard said in a press release announcing the video scoreboards last Nov. 2.

Bellard has every right to say that. He was a big player on Lamar’s 1978-79 team that was the first in university history to make the NCAA Division I tournament. (Five teams in the 1960s made what is now the Division II playoffs.)

An assistant to the LU president, Bellard suggested to Susan Conn McCurry, a Lamar alumna and part of the family behind Conn’s home furnishing store, the video scoreboard system. Conn delivered, making the donation in memory of her parents, C.W. Conn Jr. and Dorothy Anne Conn.

“This new scoreboard will be a big recruiting tool that will add yet another level of professionalism to the program,” Bellard said in the release. “Today’s players like to see those fabulous plays they make, so it has not only the ability to keep up with the score and individual statistics, but also instant replays that make this such a great addition to the Montagne.”

Maybe for the 2017-18 season, another level of non-conference opponents will pay the Montagne Center and its videoboards a visit. UTSA and Liberty are the only Division I early-season competition coming to Beaumont this season, along with Howard Payne, Austin College, Arlington Baptist and Huston-Tillotson.

Destinations shine under the lights, and the Montagne Center is taking a major step forward in becoming a mid-major basketball destination, even if it’s a Louisiana-Lafayette or Little Rock coming.

I.C. Murrell can be reached at 721-2435 or at On Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews


About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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