Men's hoops picked fourth in preseason poll

Oct. 10, 2007

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Last year, the JU men's basketball team pulled off the biggest turnaround in the country and raced to a third place finish in the Atlantic Sun Conference.

With last year's success serving as the foundation, the JU men's basketball team was picked to finish fifth in the Atlantic Sun Conference Coaches' Poll and fourth by the media as released Wednesday.

East Tennessee State, the defending regular season champion, is picked to repeat by the coaches and media. The Bucs received six first place votes in the coaches' poll to edge two-time defending tournament champion Belmont, who had five first place votes.

Courtney Pigram from ETSU was selected as the preseason "Player of the Year" and was joined by Mercer guard James Florence, Lipscomb forward Eddie Ard, Campbell forward Jonathan Rodriguez and Belmont guard Justin Hare on the preseason all-conference team.

"ETSU and Belmont have proven over the past couple of years that they are the teams to beat," said JU head coach Cliff Warren. "There are a lot of teams that could contend for the title this year as everyone returns a lot of talented players."

The Dolphins return three starters from last year's squad - all former A-Sun all-freshman team honorees. Junior forward Marcus Allen is joined by sophomore guard Ben Smith and sophomore forward Lehmon Colbert to form the core of this year's squad.

"We are still a young basketball team," Warren said. "The preseason practices are going to be extremely important for us as we integrate the newcomers with our returning players."

The coaches' poll sees Mercer getting a first place vote and picked to finish third. Lipscomb, who will host the A-Sun Tournament the next two years, is picked fourth followed by JU.

Campbell is picked sixth, followed by Kennesaw State in seventh, Gardner-Webb in eighth with Stetson and North Florida tied for ninth. Conference newcomers Florida Gulf Coast (11th) and USC Upstate (12th) rounded out the rest of the poll.

The coaches were split on the tournament champion with ETSU, Belmont, Lipscomb and Mercer all gaining three votes.

In the media poll, ETSU garnered 13 first place votes to get the top spot to edge Belmont's 10. Lipscomb is picked third with a first place vote followed by JU, who also received a first place nod.

Mercer was picked fifth, followed by Campbell, Kennesaw State, Gardner-Webb, Stetson, Florida Gulf Coast, UNF and USC Upstate.

The media selected ETSU as the tournament champion.

JU opens its season on Nov. 2 with an exhibition game at Swisher Gymnasium against Clark-Atlanta. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.