In 2014, Texas A&M-Commerce women’s basketball Head Coach Jason Burton accepted his first head coaching position. The former assistant under former Head Coach Sam Walker, just returned to Commerce from a short assistant stint at Texas State, when tragedy struck his program. Two of his players, Devin Oliver (#15) and Aubree Butts (#25), died tragically in a car accident on June 3, 2014 in Paris, Texas.
The athletic department immediately showered the newest head coach with support as he focused on providing comfort to his players and giving the duo’s legacy purpose. Burton has since coordinated an annual dinner fundraiser, a tutoring room, and now a tournament in their honor. Oliver and Butts’ legacy, ‘The 1525 Way,’ pays homage to their jersey numbers and celebrates the lives they lived.
A&M-Commerce assistant coach and former player Abigail Leaupepe-Tele played with Oliver and Butts. She smiles fondly as she talks about what the ‘The 1525 Way’ means to the Lions basketball program.
“Coach Burton is the mastermind behind the 1525 tournament. The ‘1525 Way’ is the foundation of the program helping our staff and players understand what we expect from them,” said Leaupepe-Tele. “When we recruit, we distinctly look for young women of character like Devin and Aubree.”
The program is kicking off the 1525 Weekend with a Tutoring Room Dedication on November 9 in the James Thrower Academic Success Center. In addition to the tutoring room named in their memory, the 1525 Legacy Scholarship will be awarded to Anisah El-Heet. She’s a dedicated and proud Muslim student, majoring in Animal Science and Pre-Veterinary Studies. El-Heet stood out from most candidates by graduating high school with an associate's degree and is slated to graduate with her bachelor's degree in May 2018 at only 18 years old.
Burton is the eighth coach in the program’s history and is entering his fourth year at the helm of the Texas A&M-Commerce women's basketball program. Burton’s 50 wins and .581 winning percentage are both program highs for a coach during their first three seasons. He has the fourth most wins by any coach and has the highest winning percentage of any coach in program history.
In 2016-17, A&M-Commerce enjoyed one of the most successful seasons in its history. The team finished the season with a 20-9 record, only the second team in Lions history to reach the 20-win mark. The team had wins over every team in the Lone Star Conference, finishing 14-6 in league play, the highest conference win total in the program.
The Lions, predicted to finish 5th in the Lone Star Conference, kick off their season with the inaugural 1525 Tournament presented by Domino's, Holiday Inn Express and Best Western Plus of Greenville. The tournament welcomes Colorado State-Pueblo, Lubbock Christian and Metro State to the Field House November 10-11.
The Lions are back this season with several new faces:
G Bri’An Washington - 5’7” (Cisco College)
G London Holland - 5’8” (Florida A&M)
G Melanie Ransom - 5’9” (Davidson University)
F Jasmyn Eckerman - 5’10” (Southern Arkansas)
F Jocelyn Pierce - 6’0” (Argyle High School)
G Alex Nance - 5’9” (Round Rock High School)
G Taylor Green - 5’7” (Stony Point High School, Round Rock, TX)
G Kiara Pesina - 5’3” (Highlands High School, San Antonio, TX)
F Agang Tac - 6’0” (Sachse High School, Garland, TX)
1525 Tournament Teams:
Lubbock Christian comes into the tournament the heavy favorite after going undefeated and winning the national title in 2015-16 and posting a 19-11 record (12-4 conference) last season. The Chaps made it back to the conference title game last season before falling short of back to back conference championships to St. Edwards, 52-44.
Metro State has struggled in the past few seasons, posting a 18-12 record (14-8 conference) last season. However they’ve improved in conference over the last few seasons. Last season they competed in the conference tournament, losing their first game to University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, 62-66.
Colorado State-Pueblo improved last season to finish 28-4 (20-2 conference) after previously winning a conference tournament championship. The Thunderwolves earned its second straight NCAA tournament appearance with the No. 1 seed, falling to West Texas A&M in the semi-finals, 67-70.
1525 Tournament Players to Watch:
Princess Davis #12 (TAMUC) - Last season Davis played and started in just five contests before an injury ended her season, forcing her to redshirt after scoring 15 points in the Lions’ season opener against CSU-Pueblo. Prior to the injury, Davis was named to the All-Conference defensive team and honorable mention All-Conference team. She’s 10th all-time in assists at TAMUC. Expect to see a gradual increase in Davis’ role on the team as Coach Burton is slightly cautious with his starting point guard.
Tuileisu Anderson #32 (CSU-Pueblo) - Leads the team in scoring, 13.5ppg and is second in team free throws at 80.3%.
Georgia Ohrdorf #12 (MSU) - Leads her team in scoring, 15.7ppg and made first team All-Conference last season.
Tess Bruffey #54 (LCU) - LCU’s only returning starter finished last season with 16.3ppg, 8.7rpg, and 3.9 blocks per game. She’s the Heartland Conference all-time career leader in blocks (272). Last season she was one of four players nationally to record a triple-double in a contest. In addition to being the Heartland Conference Player of the Year, Bruffey collected D2CCA All-South Central Region First Team and WBCA All-America Honorable Mention honors last season.
11/10 Texas A&M-Commerce vs. Metro State 3 P.M. at The Field House
11/11 Texas A&M-Commerce vs. Colorado State-Pueblo 7:30 P.M. at The Field House
How to watch - https://portal.stretchinternet.com/tamucommerce/#live
How to get tickets - http://wearelionstix.universitytickets.com/user_pages/event_listings.asp
How to listen - Lion Sports Network KETR 88.9 FM and streaming online at KETR.org
Click here to make a donation to the Devin Oliver and Aubree Butts Memorial Scholarship.