Upstate Picked 11th In Preseason Coaches, Media Polls
Spartanburg, S.C. – With just four players who saw action on the court from last year's team returning for the 2010-11 season and 10 newcomers with eight freshmen, the USC Upstate men's basketball team has been picked to finish 11th in the A-Sun as the conference released the results of its preseason coaches and media polls today.
Lipscomb was picked as the favorite to win both the regular season and tournament championships in both the coaches and media polls. The Bisons garnered six first-place votes and 116 points in the coaches poll, while they took 23 first-place votes and 346 points in the media poll. ETSU was picked second in both polls, collecting four first-place votes and 112 points in the coaches poll and nine first-place votes and 328 points in the media poll.
The rundown of the coaches poll had Lipscomb picked to win, followed by ETSU, Belmont, Jacksonville, Kennesaw State, Campbell, North Florida, Mercer, Stetson, Florida Gulf Coast and Upstate. The media poll was exactly the same through the first six positions, with Lipscomb tabbed as the favorite to win the league title, followed by ETSU, Belmont, Jacksonville, Kennesaw State, Campbell, Mercer, North Florida, Florida Gulf Coast, Stetson and Upstate.
"Our journey is going to be a daily journey," said Upstate head coach Eddie Payne, who has won 375 career games and is in his ninth season at the helm of the Upstate program. "We will just try to get better and improve on a daily basis. Traditional barometers of success don't really apply to this team. It will be a challenge to articulate the goals and sell the kids on goals, and the only way to do that is on a daily basis."
Lipscomb senior forward Adnan Hodzic was named the A-Sun Preseason Player of the Year by the league's coaches. He was joined on the preseason all-conference team by Anthony Banks (FGCU), Ian Clark (Belmont), Markeith Cummings (Kennesaw State), Ayron Hardy (Jacksonville), Junard Hartley (Campbell), Mick Hedgepeth (Belmont), Tommy Hubbard (ETSU), Lorne Merthie (Campbell), Josh Slater (Lipscomb), Mike Smith (ETSU) and Micah Williams (ETSU). No Upstate player made the preseason all-conference team.
Upstate head coach Eddie Payne has almost completely re-tooled the team for the 2010-11 season. Returning seniors Mezie Uzochukwu (Greensboro, N.C.) and Josh Chavis (Greensboro, N.C.) will undoubtedly assume the leadership roles of the team. Both players have been in the starting lineup since their freshman season in 2007-08, Upstate's first playing on the Division I level and the A-Sun. Their leadership could be very important to how well a group of 10 newcomers, including eight freshmen, come together early in the season.
"It's definitely going to be a challenge this year with 10 new players," said Chavis, who ranked third on the team last year in scoring with 7.9 points per game and led the Spartans with 90 assists on the season. "It's definitely a leadership role for Mezie and me to fill in order to get these guys used to playing college basketball."
"Josh and I been through this before and it is going to be important for us to drill it into their heads how hard it can be, how hard it's going to be," said Uzochukwu, who ranked second on the Spartans in scoring and rebounding at 8.4 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. "It's important that we keep up battling and never give up on anything. We have to keep on trying for success."
Uzochukwu ranked among the A-Sun leaders in rebounding and field goal percentage last season, hitting 48 percent of his shots. As a freshman in 2007-08, Uzochukwu hit two free throws with 0.6 seconds left to give Upstate a 58-56 victory at SMU, Upstate's first victory over a Division I opponent. Chavis ranked among the A-Sun leaders with a 37.9 three-point field goal percentage and 1.8 three-pointers per game.
"Leadership is crucial to any team and those two young men have demonstrated qualities throughout their first three year that should put them in the position to provide quality leadership to a very young team," Said Payne.
In addition to Uzochukwu and Chavis, Payne will rely on returning players Carter Cook, Chalmers Rogers and Ricardo Glenn to help lead the newcomers. Cook (Clemmons, N.C.) averaged 6.8 points and 3.4 rebounds per game and emerged as a perimeter threat last year. Rogers (Fort Mill, S.C.) played a key role as a reserve in the post and averaged 2.4 points and 2.1 rebounds per game. Glenn (Augusta, Ga.) was slowed early in the season with a foot injury and did not see any game action, receiving a medical redshirt.