CCU men third, women ninth in Big South basketball poll

The Coastal Carolina men’s basketball team has been selected third in the South Division and the women were selected ninth overall in the Big South Conference Preseason Poll, voted on at Thursday’s annual media day in Myrtle Beach.

In the men’s poll, Charleston Southern received 28 first place votes and a total of 177 points to be named the preseason favorite in the South Division. Gardner-Webb did not receive a first-place vote but edged the Chants by two points with 117. Coastal had two first place votes and a total of 115 points to finish third in the voting. Rounding out the South Division poll was UNC Asheville (99), Winthrop (90) and Presbyterian (32).

High Point was tabbed the preseason favorite in the North Division with 25 first place votes and 175 points. Defending tournament champion, Liberty came in second with three first place votes and 137 points while Radford finished third with 104 points. The final three spots in the North Division poll were VMI (93), Campbell (78) and Longwood (43).

High Point’s John Brown was tabbed as the Preseason Player of the Year. Joining Brown on the Preseason All-Big South first team were Saah Nimley and Arlon Harper of Charleston Southern, Allan Chaney of High Point and D.J. Covington from VMI. On the second team were Javonte Green of Radford, John Caleb Sanders and Davon Marshall of Liberty, Donta Harper of Gardner-Webb and Tristan Carey from Longwood.

The Coastal Carolina men’s basketball team returns the bulk of its roster from the 2012-13 season, but is without its two leading scorers, Anthony Raffa and Kierre Greenwood, who closed out their Chanticleer careers this past season.

Despite the large group of returners, the Chants have just two upperclassmen returning to their lineup including senior center El Hadji Ndieguene and junior guard Warren Gillis. Hoping to add some veteran leadership, head coach Cliff Ellis brought in graduate student transfer Eric Smith, from South Carolina, who started 27 games for the Gamecocks last season.

CCU will rely heavily on a group of sophomores in the frontcourt, including Badou Diagne, Michel Enanga, Uros Ljeskovic and Tristian Curtis. Diagne, Enanga and Ljeskovic all started games for the Chants last season as freshmen, but will play a bigger role this season. Last season the Chants did not have a returner in the front court and had just one upperclassman in junior-transfer Ndieguene, but went on to lead the Big South in rebounding margin for the second straight season.

Coastal will open the season on the road at the University of Akron on Nov. 8 at 8 p.m. CCU’s first home contest will take place Nov. 11 at 7 p.m. against Guilford College.

The CCU women’s basketball team, led by first-year coach Jaida Williams, was picked ninth in the poll, which was voted on by the league’s head coaches and media members.

“Preseason rankings are just that – preseason rankings,” said Williams. “As a team and staff, we still have to continue to work hard every day in our preparation and we have to perform on game day. Our ranking is roughly where I thought it would be based on the talent we have returning and what personnel the rest of the league has returning,”

Liberty was the preseason choice to defend its league title, garnering 261 points and 13 of the possible 25 first-place votes. 2012-13 Big South regular season co-runner-up Winthrop was second with 256 total points and recorded 11 first-place votes.

Campbell was voted third, receiving 206 total points. High Point (178) and Gardner-Webb (144, one first-place vote) earned the fourth- and fifth-place positions, respectively. Longwood (133), Presbyterian College (129), Radford (118), Coastal (91), Charleston Southern (79) and UNC Asheville (55) rounded out the poll.

Winthrop senior guard Dequesha McClanahan, who was named the Big South Player of the Year each of the past two seasons, was tabbed as the Preseason Player of the Year for the second consecutive year. Joining McClanahan on the Preseason All-Big South team are High Point’s Stacia Robertson, Longwood’s Daeisha Brown, Liberty’s Emily Frazier, Presbyterian College’s Karlee Taylor and Winthrop’s Schaquill Nunn.

The Chanticleers return 10 of 13 members from last season’s team that finished with a 13-16 overall record. The 2013-14 Chanticleers will look to be led by returning starters Angelica Henry, AJ Jordan, Alexx Puckett and Katelyn Connor along with senior Kayla Cook.

Henry, a senior guard, led Coastal in the scoring column during her junior campaign with a career-high 11.1 points per game mark and an 11.2 output in Big South contests. In addition, Henry recorded 76 steals, tying her seventh on the CCU single season all-time list.

Connor, also a senior, led the Chants in rebounding last season with a 6.5 per game clip, while tying with AJ Jordan as Coastal’s second leading scorer at 9.6 points per game.

Coastal returns a total of 420 games played and 161 career starts from its 10 returners, while freshmen newcomers Karsen Sims and Olivia Carlton will vie for significant minutes.

Fans can see their first look at the 2013-14 Chanticleers on Sunday, Oct. 27 as the team plays Claflin in an exhibition contest. Tipoff inside The HTC Center is set for 2 p.m. Coastal officially opens the Jaida Williams era on Saturday, Nov. 9 against Virginia Intermont at The HTC Center.

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