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Albany State’s baseball sets sight on SIAC championship under new coach
Edythe Y. Bradley

            Albany State University began a new era in its baseball program on Tuesday, Feb. 1, when Kenyan Conner makes his debut as interim head coach of Golden Rams.

            Conner and the 2010 SIAC defending champions opened the season against the Edward Waters College Tigers in a 1 p.m. doubleheader Tuesday in Jacksonville, Fla. After road trips to Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on Feb. 4-5, and Valdosta State University on Feb. 8, Conner and the Golden Rams will make their home opener on Saturday, Feb. 12, in a non-conference match-up against the Miles College Bears. First pitch is at 12 p.m. at the Golden Rams Baseball Complex. 

            The assistant baseball coach since 2002, Conner takes over a program that he helped to build into one of the most successful in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Conner replaces Edward Taylor, stepped down in August 2010 after eight years as head coach. Under Taylor, the Golden Rams won four SIAC championships and made two appearances in the NCAA Division II baseball championships.

            Conner, who has served as an assistant baseball coach since 2002, said he hopes continue the program's winning tradition.

    "I'm excited about this opportunity to coach. I have some big shoes to fill," said Conner, a Thomasville native and ASU grad who lettered in football and baseball. "The Golden Rams have a winning tradition and we hope to keep that tradition alive."

            Keeping that tradition shouldn't be a difficult one as the Golden Rams return nine lettermen from last season's 33-14 SIAC championship team, including All-SIAC players shortstop William Smalls and designated hitter Brandon Small. Smalls was named MVP of the 2010 SIAC Baseball Championship Tournament, and second baseman Corbin Williams was also named to the team. All three were preseason All-SIAC team selections.

            Although winning championship titles is Conner's main goal, he will also focus on retention and graduation of his student athletes.

            "Our goal is to win the SIAC championship and we're always in the hunt for a national championship," Conner said. "But we also place a big emphasis on our players' academic success and keeping our graduation rates high. We want our athletes to be successful after they leave Albany State." 

            ASU Athletics Director Richard Williams said Conner is a 'natural fit' as head coach of the baseball program.

            "I am just as excited about this upcoming baseball season," Williams said. "Our decision to name Coach Conner as the baseball coach last year seemed natural and it has been a smooth transition for the team. I believe he will lead the program in the right direction and help us continue our legacy of great athletic programs at Albany State."

            Conner has long-standing ties to the Albany State athletics program. The coach is a graduate of Albany State University, where he lettered in baseball and football. A left fielder for the Golden Rams, Conner received his bachelor's and master's degrees in Health and Physical Education in 1997 and 2000, respectively. He is also in his 11th season as the wide receivers and special teams coach for the Golden Rams football team.

            During his collegiate career, Conner was a standout wide receiver for the Golden Rams. He earned Most Valuable Player honors for his outstanding performance in the Fountain City Classic in 1991 and Co-MVP honors in 1992 and 1993. Conner also played football with the Albany Warriors, a minor league team in 1996. He plays Georgia-Florida league baseball and city league flag football.

            Conner is a 1990 graduate of Thomas County Central High School., where he played football, baseball and basketball. Before joining the Albany State athletics staff, Conner coached high school football, basketball and baseball in Thomasville from 1997 until 2000. He also directed the Central Middle School Learning Center for grades 6-12. He is a member of the Thomasville Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.

            Conner is married to the former LaTonya Norman, an assistant professor in ASU's Health, Physical Education and Recreation Department. They have a son, Kenyan Jr., 7, and a daughter, Kennedy Arealia, 3. He is the son of Eugene and Charity Conner of Thomasville, Ga.