The Big South Conference held its 2019 Media Day Tuesday, October 29, 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The results of the league’s preseason poll and All-Conference teams are as follows:
|Rk – Team (first-place votes)||Points|
|1 – Radford (13)||299|
|2 – Gardner-Webb (14)||295|
|3 – Winthrop (2)||253|
|4 – Hampton||198|
|5 – Charleston Southern||190|
|6 – Longwood||164|
|7 – Campbell||141|
|8 – High Point||132|
|9 – UNC Asheville||105|
|10 – Presbyterian College||87|
|11 – USC Upstate||50|
2019-20 Big South Conference Men’s Basketball Preseason All-Conference Team
Carlik Jones, Radford, R-Jr., G (Cincinnati, Ohio)
Jermaine Marrow, Hampton, Sr., G (Newport News, Va.)
Jose Perez, Gardner-Webb, Soph., G/F (Bronx, N.Y.)
Phlandrous Fleming Jr., Charleston Southern, Jr., G (Athens, Ga.)
Devon Baker, UNC Asheville, Soph., G (Dayton, Ohio)
Josh Ferguson, Winthrop, Sr., F (Miami, Fla.)
Shabooty Phillips, Longwood, Sr., G (Houston, Texas)
Travis Fields Jr., Radford, Sr., G (Portsmouth, Va.)
Nate Johnson, Gardner-Webb, R-Jr., G (Miami, Fla.)
Cory Hightower, Presbyterian College, Soph., F (Flint, Mich.)
We sat down with eight Big South coaches at Media Day, and here are some of the highlights of our conversations, along with the interviews in their entirety.
LONGWOOD COACH GRIFF ALDRICH
On the new Joan Perry Brock Center coming to Longwood in 2022: “To be honest, I think, for us – last year, there was enthusiasm around the program. I think that’s helped take the enthusiasm around the program at Longwood to a different level. We were fortunate to have a good run in the CBI tournament, and were able to end the season on a really positive note. To follow that up with the announcement of an exciting arena, I think it just continues to reflect that the program is, hopefully, moving in the right direction.”
On the CBI run: “I think it was a real confidence boost for our guys. To finish the season well, to have some guys who had had a good year to turn out some great performances … I hope it’ll be a nice catapult into this season … It’s a breath of confidence. It gives some momentum to our guys. I think that’s something that every player wants, is to feel like they’re a part of a quality program, and they’re really good at what they do.”
On his new additions to the program: “They’ve (the transfers) all been great. (I give) credit to our seniors, because they’ve done a really good job of embracing the new guys. There’s been great chemistry. One of the biggest things, I think, for this year, and for every year, (is) that we want to make sure that we’ve got a culture that will produce championships and successful teams … DeShaun (Wade) brings a level of toughness. He’s a physical guard … Christian Wilson, who’ll play the four and some three for us, he brings a scoring mentality and skillset that, frankly, we didn’t have last year … Ilija (Stefanovic), he’s really a smart player, and understands how we like those five-men to play. I think he’ll just get better and better.
“I think we’ve got two (freshmen) right now who really have an opportunity to make an impact. Leslie Nkereuwem is a 6’7”, he’s probably put on about 10 pounds since he got to campus, and (is) extremely athletic, and plays with an incredible motor. When he’s playing at his optimal level, he’s a really impactful player. He’s actually our fastest guy from baseline to opposite free throw line. He’s big, but he can move … Heru (Bligen) is a very physical, athletic guard. He is ready to play, physically, right now, and his understanding continues to grow each and every day.”
Coach Aldrich discussed more with us, including his biggest strength and opportunity, the rejuvenation of his team between the regular season and postseason, getting an ESPNU wildcard game, his expectations for senior guard Shabooty Phillips, and…Gene Hackman? To hear that and more, click this link.
RADFORD COACH MIKE JONES
On preseason rankings: “(They mean) less than nothing. They’re nice things to talk about in conversation pieces, but at the end of the day, nothing matters other than the postseason rankings. It’s certainly flattering and an honor to be chosen preseason (champions), but at the end of the day, it’s all about the work we put in between now and the end of the season.”
On Carlik Jones being named Preseason Player of the Year: “It’s a great honor for him. It shows the amount of work that he’s put in over the last couple of years, and it’s nice to be thought of that way, but all it means is (that) they’re gonna be targeting him. They’re gonna be finding ways to stop him. He’s gotta put in the work in order to be able to combat that defense. He has, so I’m confident that he’ll be able to live up to some of that hype.”
On the mindset coming back this year after last year’s championship game loss: “I think there’s a hunger there. I think anytime you have players that are hungry, for whatever reason it is – and I think, because we lost in the championship game, because we did not have the outright championship in the regular season, I think it’s made them hungry. I think they know they left some opportunities on the table, and they’re more than ready to come in this year and try to prove themselves.”
Coach Jones also talked about seeing former star Javonte Green realizing his NBA dream, his veteran guard leadership, the talented newcomers he’s infused into the program and much more. To hear the entire conversation, click this link.
CHARLESTON SOUTHERN COACH BARCLAY RADEBAUGH
On this year’s team: “We’re ahead of the curve. Just the attitude and the effort that these guys play with … I know it sounds unusual, but we’ve had 28 practices, and we’ve had a day and a half that have been bad, from an attitude and an effort standpoint. We’re making big strides, because we’re not having to coach effort.”
On “pay-for-play” tournaments: “We’re a one-bid league. When you’re sitting in the ACC, and you’re gonna get 6-to-10 people in the NCAA tournament and two in the NIT, then it tastes a little bit different. For those people who criticize the CIT and the CBI, obviously those are Power 5 schools that might be having those opinions. For us – I think we had six teams in the postseason, to get multiple postseason wins, it’s just positive … It was just a win-win for us. I’m all for them.”
On changing defensive philosophies late last season: “Late in the season, now, our last ten games, nobody shot over 40 percent. For the last ten games, teams shot 35-and-a-half percent. Nationally, that’s Texas Tech and Virginia. We’ve taken that into this year, and we feel like we can be as physical and as tough-minded as anybody in our league, and we feel like that can be this team’s calling card. IN the past, maybe we’ve shot it a lot better. This team’s calling card can be our physicality at the defensive end, the creating disruption, and they like that.”
Coach Radebaugh continued on to talk about the “repeatability” of his team’s physical nature, the emergence of guard Dontrell Shuler, having former star players come back to help him coach, fended off a guest appearance by Aldrich (really), and much more. Hear the rest of the conversation by clicking this link.
PRESBYTERIAN COACH QUINTON FERRELL
On his familiarity with Clinton and the program: “When you talk about recruiting, knowing which young men to identify … When you start to get to know them, you kind of get a good sense pretty early on if they’ll fit in the environment at PC.”
On the importance of “re-recruiting” Cory Hightower and Kody Shubert, who originally planned to transfer: “That was extremely important. (When) you see a freshman like Cory and the type of year he had last year, his phone is ringing off the hook, from his parents to his high school coach to his AAU coaches. I really tried to attack those guys first, all of the guys that were in the program, and just let them know who I was and what I was about, and tell them all that I wanted them to be at PC, if they wanted to be there. That was a big part of my first few days on the job, was reaching out to these guys and getting those guys to stay put at PC.”
On legendary PC coach Gregg Nibert and his influence: “Coach Nibert means a great deal to me. He recruited me out of high school, and he gave me my first opportunity as a college coach. So much of what I’ve learned about college basketball, as a player and a coach, comes from him … I think I am an extension of him, to a certain degree. I knew how we ran the program, and what he was about. Our program will have those elements to it.”
Coach Ferrell credited former PC and current Appalachian State coach Dustin Kerns, talked about his guard play, expanded on what he expects to see from Hightower this season, and much more. To hear the rest of the conversation, follow this link.
USC UPSTATE COACH DAVE DICKERSON
On his and his team’s biggest strength: “I think we’re doing things the right way. We have a great nucleus over the last two years that we’ve built with a bunch of freshmen and sophomores, and that’s gonna be the next phase of who we are, as far as our program is concerned … Even though we were not successful, I enjoyed the year, in the fact that we saw four guys graduate, and those four guys are doing well in their lives right now … I think we have a great group of young guys that’s going to be the next part of the Big South Conference, as far as rebuilding our program.”
On the difference from last year to this year: “Each guy has gotten better in the weight room. Each guy has gotten better on the court. All of us have been humbled … Obviously, being picked last in the conference is not an exciting thing, but it adds to who we are, as far as the chip on our shoulder.”
On his point guard situation: “(Sophomore) Dalvin White has been the spiritual leader on the court. He brings the energy, he has the personality, and all those things are good with us. He’s infectious. We also have Cartier Jernigan, who’s been good for us, from West Charlotte, and Tommy Bruner has probably been our most consistent freshman. He really has a big chip on his shoulder, and he really loves the game. He studies the game, and he plays at an unbelievable pace. He’s been the most pleasant surprise out of the freshman class, at this point.”
Coach Dickerson continued on to talk about Bryson Mozone’s recovery from last year’s injury, the continued development of guard Everette Hammond, center Nevin Zink finding his confidence, and more. The rest of the conversation can be heard by clicking this link.
GARDNER-WEBB COACH TIM CRAFT
On last year’s championship and NCAA berth: “When you look back at it, you’re grateful to go through it. You’re grateful to have experienced that. Certainly, when I took the job here, that (was my) goal, is that one day we can do that, and accomplish that. You just work really hard every day to try to put yourself in a position to have a chance to do it.”
On Tony Bennett’s complimenting his kids and program: “It makes you feel proud of your guys, for sure, and your assistant coaches, who did a lot of the hard, behind-the-scenes work to get those guys to come to your school. When a guy like Coach Bennett throws compliments in the direction of your program, it certainly makes you feel good.”
On making the decision to sign an extension at Gardner-Webb, versus pursuing other opportunities: “When you have a chance to work for a guy like (athletic director) Chuck Burch, he’s one of the (most) honest, straightforward people that you’re gonna be around. He’s been really, really supportive. Boiling Springs has been a great place to live. I’ve got four young kids, and my wife loves it here. We really felt a home here. We didn’t know if we’d ever live at a place for six years, but to be here going on year seven is a special thing … It just made a lot of sense for us to continue to be here.”
Coach Craft expanded on many more subjects, including his school’s recruiting success from Putnam Science Academy, his team’s newcomers, Gardner-Webb’s non-conference schedule, and much more. That conversation can be heard by clicking this link.
UNC ASHEVILLE COACH MIKE MORRELL
On the transition of his largely-freshman team to sophomores: “I think, honestly, that I’ve got three that played enough minutes to be juniors. One of the fun things is just to watch them grow as people, as players. We knew that it would be tough last year. Trying to see the good in everything that we did was really important for me and our staff. We’ve just seen a lot of growth … (Their) learning from their mistakes, (their) having the ability to be able to coach themselves a little bit, that’s been fun to watch. All of that has kind of just (gone) into the maturation process over the last few months.”
On his continued development of patience as a head coach: “When you’re used to winning, when you’re used to going to the NCAA tournament … On a personal level, yeah, it definitely is a punch to the gut a little bit to have to take 27 losses, my hope is that it developed (for) our team a chip on their shoulder-type mentality, and one that we can really learn from.”
On his team last year and how he’ll remember it 30 years from now: “I’ll be thankful for it. I’m thankful for it now, and I’ll be a hell of a lot more thankful for it then … I couldn’t write enough things down. I didn’t have enough wrinkles in my brain to try to be able to comprehend and learn all the things that I should have. It was a great growth experience for me as a coach … I’m really thankful for it, and thankful that our guys went through it, because I think there’s going to be some roses that bloom on the other side of it.”
Coach Morrell talked more about his team’s development, along with the additions of former Fort Wayne forward Jax Levitch and NC State transfer Lavar Batts, Jr., and much more, which you can hear by clicking this link.
WINTHROP COACH PAT KELSEY
On the addition of Tennessee transfer D.J. Burns: “When he decided he was leaving Tennessee and he entered the transfer portal, there was an obvious connection, just because it’s his hometown. He’s probably one of the most decorated recruits in the history of Rock Hill. We were involved in his recruitment at a very young age, so we were familiar with him and his family. I think he realized that one thing that really appealed to him was the ability to come home, and play closer to home, and be closer to his family, so it made a lot of sense from that regard … I think you have to give a tip of the cap to how Tennessee handled things (in the waiver process). They were first-class in every way, shape, and form, in helping D.J. throughout the process and putting his well-being first and foremost. They agreed that him not having to sit another year was in his best interest. Coach Barnes was, as you can imagine, unbelievably classy, and was very helpful in that regard.”
On his freshmen: “I think the biggest thing is the things they have that you can’t measure, and those things are things that we try to identify and value in recruiting. They are tireless workers. I think if there’s one shared trait, (one) shared quality amongst all four of those true freshmen coming in is how much they love hoop, how much they love the game, their hours in the gym, their investment into their skill, into their body, into the weight room … They want to be really good. If you bring that to the table as a player – obviously, you have to have the sheer talent, the ability, and the God-given things, but … that want-to, and that drive to get better and to improve, there’s so much you can do with that. The sky’s the limit when players have that. I think that’s something that they all have.”
On what Rock Hill and the Winthrop community have come to mean to him: “It’s home. With all due respect to every citizen of the city of Cincinnati – I love Cincinnati. It’s in my blood … That’ll always be home. I can honestly say I have two homes. Rock Hill is home. It’s where my youngest son was born. We have deep, deep close personal friendships, (and) people that have become family to me and my wife … I get emotional talking about it, because it is such a special place to us. It’s a wonderful place to raise a family … This place has become very special to us. We don’t like it, we love it.”
Coach Kelsey discussed his expectations for Josh Ferguson and Kyle Zunic, his thoughts on the extended three-point line, his team’s 2019-20 schedule and much more. Hear the whole conversation by clicking this link.
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