Campbell guard Chris Clemons’ incredible effort in the Big South basketball tournament last spring in Rock Hill certainly got the league’s attention.
After averaging 35 points in four tournament games and working out for NBA teams over the summer, Clemons was chosen as the league’s preseason player of the year Tuesday during media day in Charlotte.
UNC Asheville was picked to win the league by voters that include conference coaches and media. Winthrop was picked second.
Previewing Carolinas schools
UNC Asheville: The preseason favorite is well-stocked with experienced and talented guards. Ahmad Thomas, a 6-foot-3 guard, is one of the better players in the league, and Kevin Vannatta is the scrappy heart of the Bulldogs.
Campbell: Clemons, a 5-9 junior, is the league’s biggest star, but coach Kevin McGeehan has fashioned a strong supporting cast around him. Interesting to see what the Camels do after their surprise run to the conference tournament final last spring.
Winthrop: The reigning champion has seven new players and graduated the school’s all-time leading scorer, Keon Johnson. The Eagles almost lost coach Pat Kelsey, who decided at the last moment against leaving for Massachusetts. Xavier Cooks, the best all-around player in the league, returns.
Gardner-Webb: Losing guard Laquincy Rideau (transferred to South Florida) hurts, but the Bulldogs should still contend. D.J. Laster is a prototypical stretch forward in the Big South who could make a production leap this winter for the conference tournament semifinalists.
High Point: With one of the taller rosters in the league, High Point and coach (and former Tar Heel) Scott Cherry need juniors Andre Fox and Ricky Madison to take the next step and be consistent standouts for the Panthers to climb up the crowded league standings.
Charleston Southern: The Bucs were hit by the transfer of guard Armel Potter, but coach Barclay Radebaugh returns one of the more unusual talents in the league, do-everything sophomore Christian Keeling, who emerged in the second half of last season.
Presbyterian: Former Wofford assistant Dustin Kerns replaces Gregg Nibert, meaning the Blue Hose has a new coach for the first time in 28 years. Jo’Vontae Millner returns after a season-ending injury last season and should lead the way.
First team: Chris Clemons, Campbell, Jr., G, 5-9, 185 (Raleigh); Xavier Cooks, Winthrop, Sr., G/F, 6-8, 185 (Wollongong, Australia); Ahmad Thomas, UNC Asheville, Sr., F, 6-3, 215 (Danville, Va.); MaCio Teague, UNC Asheville, Soph., G, 6-3, 190 (Cincinnati, Ohio); Christian Keeling, Charleston Southern, Soph., G, 6-4, 175 (Augusta, Ga.)
First team: Emma Bockrath, High Point, Jr., G, 5-10 (Dayton, Ohio); Keyen Green, Liberty, Soph., F, 6-1 (Philadelphia, Pa.); Jayda Worthy, Radford, Sr., F, 6-0 (Toledo, Ohio); Janayla White, Radford, Sr., F, 6-2 (Virginia Beach, Va.); Cortney Storey, Presbyterian College, Sr., G, 5-6 (Fayetteville, Tenn.)
Men’s preseason poll
First-place votes in parentheses
1. UNC Asheville (23)
2. Winthrop (3)
3. Liberty (1)
4. Campbell (2)
6. High Point
8. Charleston Southern