Despite a strong shooting second half, the Lenoir-Rhyne Men's Basketball Team could not catch up…
The App State men’s basketball team has been picked to finish second in the Sun Belt Conference this season, while Donovan Gregory and CJ Huntley earned preseason all-conference honors.
This is the highest preseason ranking the Mountaineers have ever garnered as a member of the Sun Belt and marks the highest preseason ranking since the 2010-11 season when the Black & Gold were the preseason pick to finish second in the Southern Conference.
Fifth-year head coach Dustin Kerns will lead a squad that paced the Sun Belt in scoring defense last season and returns 72 percent of the scoring from a season ago, including its two leading scorers. App State has posted a .500 winning percentage or better in every year of Kerns’ tenure.
“Expectations are a good thing, but can’t be our focus,” Kerns said. “We are focused on the process of being the best team we can be. We ultimately know that the best teams have a chip on their shoulder and have humility to constantly improve. Our program is most comfortable with an ‘us against the world’ mindset and purpose.”
Gregory, who played his way to an All-Sun Belt third-team selection last season, was named to the preseason All-Sun Belt first team on Monday.
Gregory was one of three Sun Belt players to post over 300 points, 100 rebounds and 100 assists last season and became the first Mountaineer to record 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 300 assists and 150 steals in his career.
“I’m so proud of Donovan for this well-earned accomplishment,” Kerns said. “Each year, Donovan continues to work on his game and his body and has shown he has the ability to perform in big moments. He is the ultimate competitor, and he understands how competitive the Sun Belt is and the level of play it takes to be one of the best players in the conference each night.”
Huntley, a senior forward, is yet another Mountaineer to earn preseason accolades, landing on the preseason All-Sun Belt third team. This is Huntley’s first career selection to one of the three preseason teams.
Huntley averaged career highs across the board last season, scoring 9.2 points per game and grabbing 5.8 rebounds per outing. The Huntersville, N.C., native had the fourth-highest three-point field goal percentage on the team and has seen his scoring average rise each year in the High Country. Huntley’s offseason was highlighted by being one of 20 players selected to Damian Lillard’s Formula Zero Elite Camp in August, which is a camp hosted by seven-time NBA All-Star Damian Lillard that features 20 top high school and 20 top college basketball players hand-selected by Lillard and his team.
“CJ has shown that he is deserving of this recognition,” Kerns said. “He has worked hard and had another productive season in his development. Being invited to the Formula Zero camp this August was a big step in his development, and I am excited to see his hard work be paid off. I’m excited for him to be recognized as one of the many top players in the Sun Belt.”
An experienced group of returners will headline this year’s roster, including the Mountaineers’ two leading scorers from a season ago in Gregory, who finished in the top 20 in the Sun Belt in both points per game and assists per game in 2022-23, and Terence Harcum, who saw his scoring average increase by 9.1 points per game from his freshman year.
Kerns and his staff will also welcome a talented group of newcomers, highlighted by Butler transfer Myles Tate, junior college transfer Tre’Von Spillers who led the NJCAA in blocks per game and finished third in the nation in rebounds per game last season and freshman Jordan Marsh, who averaged 27.7 points per game at the Big Shots Prep Nationals High School SLAM his senior year.
The Mountaineers will make their first appearance in the Holmes Convocation Center on Tuesday, Nov. 7, when they will face the Oakland City Mighty Oaks at 6:30 p.m.
2023-24 Sun Belt Men’s Basketball Preseason Poll
First-place votes in parentheses
1. James Madison (7) – 176
2. App State (2) – 159
3. Old Dominion (1) – 154
4. Southern Miss – 148
5. Louisiana (2) – 136
6. South Alabama (2) – 129
7. Marshall – 119
8. Troy – 91
9. Arkansas State – 84
10. Texas State – 72
11. Georgia State – 69
12. Coastal Carolina – 59
13. Georgia Southern – 42
14. ULM – 32
2023-24 Sun Belt Men’s Basketball Preseason Awards
Preseason Player of the Year
Austin Crowley, Southern Miss
Preseason All-Sun Belt First Team
Austin Crowley, Southern Miss
Terrence Edwards, Jr., James Madison [R-JR | G | Atlanta, Ga.] Donovan Gregory, App State [GR | F | Charlotte, N.C.] Chaunce Jenkins, Old Dominion [JR | G | Newport News, Va.] Christyon Eugene, Troy [SR | G | Spring, Texas] Themus Fulks, Louisiana
Preseason All-Sun Belt Second Team
Tyrell Jones, South Alabama [SR | G | Chicago, Ill.] Kamdyn Curfman, Marshall
Tyreke Locure, ULM [SR | G | New Orleans, La.] Dwon Odom, Georgia State [JR | G | Alpharetta, Ga.] Obinna Anochili-Killen, Marshall
Preseason All-Sun Belt Third Team
Terrance Ford Jr., Arkansas State [SO | G | Chicago, Ill.] Brenden Tucker, Georgia State [SR | G | Lawrenceville, Ga] CJ Huntley, App State [SR | F | Huntersville, N.C.] Freddy Hicks, Arkansas State [JR | G | Searcy, Ark.] Aamer Muhammad, Troy [SR | G | Rio Rancho, New Mexico]