The Jacksonville State men's basketball team was tabbed the No. 2 team in the Ohio Valley Conference Tuesday, as voted by the league's head coaches and sports information directors.
(Hear from JSU Coaches Ray Harper [men] & Rick Pietri [women] in the featured video)
In addition, seniors Norbertas Giga and Malcolm Drumwright were named to the Preseason All-OVC Team.
The announcement came from OVC Basketball Media Day in Evansville, Ind. - the site of the 2018 OVC Basketball Tournament.
Jacksonville State was picked to finish sixth in the OVC East - 12th of 12 teams - a year ago but finished the year with a 9-7 record, good enough for third place. The Gamecocks earned the No. 4 seed for the OVC Tournament and knocked off No. 5 Southeast Missouri, No. 1 Belmont and No. 2 UT Martin in winning the tournament crown for the first time. The Gamecocks made its first appearance in the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship, falling to Louisville in a close affair. Giga made a splash on the national scene in that game, connecting on 5-of-5 3-pointers (after making only eight all season entering the contest) and scoring 30 points to go along with nine rebounds. For the year, Giga, a Preseason All-OVC selection, averaged 11.0 points and 8.1 rebounds/game and hit 50.9 percent from the field. He is joined on the Preseason All-OVC team by senior guard Drumwright, the MVP of last year's OVC Tournament. Drumwright, who has started every game over the past two seasons, averaged a team-high 12.5 points/game last year to go along with 3.9 assists and 2.4 rebounds a contest in addition to knocking down 63 3-pointers. Overall, second-year head coach Ray Harper, who has won 451 games during his career (including two Division II and two NAIA National Championships), has eight returning players from a year ago.
Belmont received 235 total points in being picked first. JSU, the defending OVC Tournament champions, picked up three first-place votes and were tabbed second with 213 points. Murray State received the other three first-place votes and 212 points in being picked third. The preseason poll was rounded out by Eastern Kentucky (139), Tennessee Tech (137), Eastern Illinois (135), Tennessee State (125), UT Martin (114), Morehead State (89), Southeast Missouri (82), Austin Peay (63) and SIUE (40).
2017-18 OVC Men's Basketball Preseason Poll
1. Belmont (18 first-place votes) - 235 points
2. Jacksonville State (3) - 213
3. Murray State (3) - 212
4. Eastern Kentucky - 139
5. Tennessee Tech - 137
6. Eastern Illinois - 135
7. Tennessee State - 125
8. UT Martin - 114
9. Morehead State - 89
10. Southeast Missouri - 82
11. Austin Peay - 63
12. SIUE - 40
2017-18 Preseason All-OVC Men's Basketball Team
Matthew Butler, UT Martin
Malcolm Drumwright, Jacksonville State
Amanze Egekeze, Belmont
Norbertas Giga, Jacksonville State
Asante Gist, Eastern Kentucky
Aleksa Jugovic, Tennessee Tech
Austin Luke, Belmont
Denzel Mahoney, Southeast Missouri
Nick Mayo, Eastern Kentucky
Terrell Miller, Murray State
Jonathan Stark, Murray State
Preseason OVC Player of the Year: Jonathan Stark, Murray State
The Jacksonville State women's basketball team was picked seventh in the women's poll, receiving 11 votes. Belmont was chosen as the preseason favorite with 242 votes and 22 first-place votes.
Courtesy: JSU Sports Information (www.jsugamecocksports.com)