Thursday, 12 October 2023 21:30


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RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. – On Thursday, the Great American Conference announced the results of its 2023-24 GAC men’s basketball preseason coaches’ poll. Southeastern Oklahoma State received nine first-place votes from the league’s head coaches to enter the season as the favorite.

The Savage Storm posted an 18-10 record in 2022-23. They averaged 85.1 points per game, the 12th-best mark in Division II. Southeastern returns a pair of All-GAC performers in First-Team honoree Jett Sternberger and Second-Team selection Brennen Burns. Last season, Sternberger ranked third in the conference in scoring, averaging 17.3 points per game while Burns ranked seventh in scoring, second in assists, first in assist-to-turnover ratio, fourth in field-goal percentage and fifth in steals.

Arkansas Tech edged out Southern Arkansas by two points for second place. Each received a first-place vote. The Wonder Boys made a deep run at the GAC Championships by reaching the final for the first time since 2015. Taelon Peter, a Second-Team All-GAC pick returns for Tech after averaging 15.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game.

The Muleriders ended the Wonder Boys’ season by defeating them in the final of the GAC Championships 89-69, for the program’s first tournament title and second NCAA Tournament bid in three seasons. Gregory Hammond, Jr. averaged 12.9 points and 6.2 rebounds to garner the league’s Newcomer of the Year Award and a spot on the All-GAC First Team.

Henderson State took fourth and collected the last remaining first-place vote. Tomislav Miholjcic shot 66.3 percent from the floor and averaged 10.6 points per game.

East Central placed fifth, two points ahead of Ouachita Baptist. In Head Coach Daniel Wheeler’s first season, ECU went 18-11 - a seven-win improvement from 2021-22. Keyon Thomas led the team in scoring at 13.1 points per game. He shot 50.4 percent from the floor and 41.0 percent from the 3-point arc. At the GAC Championships, Ouachita upset top-seeded Southern Nazarene in just the second win against the No. 1 seed for the No. 8 seed in tournament history. Tylar Haynes averaged 12.9 points and a team-high 7.0 rebounds per game. He shot 58.4 percent from the floor.

Oklahoma Baptist finished in seventh. The Bison return Ricky Brown, who averaged 10.1 points per game and Ethan Scott, who connected on 41.7 percent of his 3-point tries. Of his 139 field-goal attempts, 131 came from beyond the 3-point line.

Southern Nazarene checked in in eighth, followed by Northwestern Oklahoma State and Arkansas-Monticello. B.J. Foster takes over with the Crimson Storm following a six-year tenure at California State San Marcos where he won at least 18 games four times in seasons and led the Cougars to their first two NCAA Tournament appearances.

The Rangers return a pair of double-digit scorers in Brian Free and Larry White. Free earned a spot on the Honorable Mention All-GAC Team after he averaged 13.3 points and shot 39.1 percent from the 3-point line. White added 11.3 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. The Weevils feature Isaac Jackson, a 2022-23 All-GAC Second Team member. He averaged 14.8 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. He went 41-for-92 from the 3-point stripe for a 44.6 percent average.

Southwestern Oklahoma State and Harding rounded out the poll. Each feature first-year head coaches as Brett Weiberg takes over for the Bulldogs while former Bisons point guard Weston Jameson succeeds Jeff Morgan at his alma mater.

The regular season opens on Saturday, November 4 when Southeastern Oklahoma State partakes in the 2023 D2CCA Tip Off Classic. The remaining 11 schools start on Friday, November 10. The 2024 GAC Championships take place from Thursday, March 7 through Sunday, March 10 at FireLake Arena in Shawnee, Oklahoma.



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