ROCK HILL, S.C. - The Newberry College men's basketball team is picked to finish fourth in the South Atlantic Conference this season according to the annual preseason coaches' poll, which was released today. Newberry received one first-place vote and 48 total votes.
Newberry, which was 12-16 overall last season and finished tied for sixth in SAC play, returns all five starters, including senior forward Clemente Martin (Freeport, Bahamas), who was named to the preseason all-South Atlantic Conference first team. Martin was second in the league in scoring last year and was the conference statistical champion in steals per game.
Catawba College, who returns 10 letterwinners from the 2008 Food Lion South Atlantic Conference men's basketball tournament championship team, are the preseason favorites to win the 2008-09 regular season crown
The Catawba Indians received four first-place votes and 73 total points, edging out Lenoir-Rhyne University by one point for the top spot in the preseason poll.
Catawba returns junior guard Antonio Houston, the MVP of the conference tournament last year. Houston was named to the preseason All-Conference first team. Rob Fields, who was second on the team in scoring last year, was named to the preseason All-Conference second team. Catawba also returns Dominick Reid, the 2008 men's Freshman of the Year.
Lenoir-Rhyne also received four first-place votes. In the national preseason poll by DII Basketball Bulletin, the Bears star t the season ranked 14th, while Catawba is ranked 20th.
The Bears shared the regular-season title last year and have won four of the last six conference titles.
Josh Rudder was named the preseason All-Conference team. Rudder is a two-time All-Conference guard and was the second-leading scorer for Lenoir-Rhyne last season. Forward Elliott McDowell was named to the preseason All-Conference second team.
Carson-Newman College is the pick to finish third. The Eagles received 55 total points. The Eagles finished third last year.
Carson-Newman returns four letterwinners from last year's team, which set a conference record for scoring average. A pair of those returnees were named to the preseason All-Conference team. Guard Jordan Dixon was named to the first team, while forward Bobby Guyton was named to the second team.
Mars Hill College is picked to finish fifth. The Lions received 44 points.
Mars Hill, under first-year coach Thomas Nash, returns plenty of talent from the team that advanced to the finals of the 2008 Food Lion SAC Tournament. Jamarl Glen, the team's leading scorer last year, was named to the preseason All-Conference first team, while P.J. Gore and Stoney Polite were named to the second team.
Tusculum College is sixth in the coaches poll with 41 points.
The Pioneers return preseason All-Conference first-team selection Kyle Moore, who ranked sixth in the league in assists and fifth in 3-point shooting a year ago.
Defending conference champion Wingate University is picked to finish seventh. The Bulldogs, who received 40 points, are looking to rebuild under first-year coach Brian Good. The Bulldogs return eight letterwinners from last year's championship team, including senior guard DeMario Mattox, who averaged 7.4 points a year ago.
Lincoln Memorial University is the pick to finish eighth. The Railsplitters received 17 points. The Railsplitters, under first-year coach Josh Shertz, will look to rebuild with 15 newcomers.
Brevard College rounds out the poll with 15 points. The Tornados will be competing for the SAC championship for the first time. The Tornados placed junior forward Jonathan Whitson, who averaged 18 points and 7.9 rebounds last season, on the preseason All-Conference second team.
2008-09 Men's Coaches Preseason Poll
Team Total (1st)
1. Catawba 73 (4)
2. Lenoir-Rhyne 72 (4)
3. Carson-Newman 55
4. Newberry 48 (1)
5. Mars Hill 44
6. Tusculum 41
7. Wingate 40
8. Lincoln Memorial 17
9. Brevard 15
Men's Preseason All-Conference
Jordan Dixon, Carson-Newman
Antonio Houston, Catawba
Josh Rudder, Lenoir-Rhyne
Jamarl Glen, Mars Hill
Clemente Martin, Newberry
Kyle Moore, Tusculum
Jonathan Whitson, Brevard
Bobby Guyton, Carson-Newman
Rob Fields, Catawba
Elliott McDowell, Lenoir-Rhyne
P.J. Gore, Mars Hill
Stoney Polite, Mars Hill