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UNCG Mens Basketball Picked To Win SoCon; Miller Named Preseason POY

UNCG Mens Basketball Picked To Win SoCon; Miller Named Preseason POY
Credit: WFMY
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GREENSBORO, N.C. – UNC Greensboro (UNCG) senior guard Isaiah Miller, the reigning Southern Conference Player of the Year and two-time defending SoCon Defensive Player of the Year, was selected as the coaches’ preseason player of the year selection for the second straight season.


The Spartans were the coaches’ preseason favorite to win the 2020-21 Southern Conference men’s basketball title in polling of the league’s 10 men’s basketball coaches and media. The Spartans were picked to finish second in the media poll behind Furman.


The coaches, who also picked a preseason all-conference team, were not allowed to vote for their own teams or student-athletes as part of the balloting. Due to a tie in the voting, there were 11 members on the preseason All-SoCon team.


The top returning scorer in the league, Miller was second in the SoCon in scoring last season at 17.8 points per game and led the conference in steals for the second straight season, totaling 89 and averaging 2.8 per contest to rank second and fourth, respectively, in NCAA Division I. 


He enters his senior campaign with a program-record 241 career steals, good for eighth in SoCon history. Miller has an opportunity to set the SoCon’s all-time career steals record, sitting just 94 short of Keith Jennings’ all-time mark.


The Covington, Georgia, native was eighth in the league in assists in 2019-20, totaling an even 100 and averaging 3.1 per game, and was ESPN reporter Myron Medcalf’s preseason pick as the

mid-major player of the year entering 2020-21.


In addition to the ESPN.com recognition, Miller was named a preseason Mid-Major All-American by Stadium, the SoCon's Preseason Player of the Year by Blue Ribbon College Basketball magazine and named to College Basketball Review's 2020-21 Preseason Mid-Major All-American Second Team. 


As a team, the Spartans went 23-9 overall last season and 13-5 in the SoCon, finishing third. UNCG, which received a vote in the Associated Press Top 25 preseason poll on Monday, has won at least 20 games in each of the last four seasons and its 104 triumphs over that span are second-most for a DI team in the state of North Carolina. 


The Spartans return 12 players from last season and 70.6 percent of their team scoring, including starters Miller and Kaleb Hunter (10.3 points per game). Reigning SoCon Freshman of the Year Keyshaun Langley, who also earned a spot on the All-Freshman Team after averaging 6.6 points in 17.2 minutes while seeing action in all 32 games, contributed on both ends of the floor with 36 steals (second on the team) and 60 assists (third on the Spartans).


Langley along with juniors Angelo Allegri and Michael Hueitt, Jr. combined to make 136 3-pointers last season, which was 48.7 percent of UNCG's season total of 279. 


The Spartans will also receive a boost from seven-foot transfer Hayden Koval. A transfer from Central Arkansas, Koval is eligible this season for the Spartans. Cementing himself as one of the top shot blockers in Southland Conference history after just three years of playing with the Bears, Koval joins a Spartan squad that ranked among the top defensive teams in the country.


He ranked fourth in the country with 95 rejections last year, while averaging 12.2 points and 7.6 rebounds per game last year. He earned SLC All-Defensive Team honors for a third consecutive season and finished his career at UCA with a career program record of 272 blocks. 


Junior Mohammad Abdulsalam averaged 16.3 minutes over 31 games last season. He made 50.5 percent of his shots from the field and was one of three Spartans to shoot 50 percent or better last season. He contributed 3.8 points and 3.6 rebounds per contest. His 14 blocked shots were third on the team. 


Additional key returnees from last season include junior Ryan Tanekelwicz along with sophomores Bas Leyte, Kobe Langley, Khyre Thompson, and redshirt freshmen Dericko Williams and Arnas Adomavicius.


In addition to Koval, newcomers include freshmen A.J. McGinnis, Reggie Raynor, Jarrett Hensley, and J.C. Tharrington.

UNCG Mens Basketball Picked To Win SoCon; Miller Named Preseason POYUNCG will play five games over nine days to start the campaign. In addition to Little Rock, the Spartans will battle Winthrop (Nov. 27), Duquesne (Nov. 29), Prairie View A&M (Dec. 2), and Louisville (Dec. 4). Louisville also received votes in the Associated Press Top 25 preseason poll.


Aside from UNCG and Furman alternating at the tops of the two polls, the coaches and media predicted the league’s teams to finish in the same order. UNCG topped the preseason coaches poll with 76 points, edging Furman by two, but the Paladins picked up five first-place votes, one more than the Spartans. In the media poll, Furman totaled 278 points and 16 first-place votes, followed by UNCG with 274 points and nine first-place votes. 


ETSU, Mercer, Wofford, Western Carolina, Chattanooga, Samford, VMI and The Citadel followed in that order in both polls. ETSU received one first-place vote from the coaches and four from the media, while Mercer picked up one first-place nod from the media.


The Southern Conference will conduct its virtual Basketball Media Day on Thursday, with interviews with each coach conducted by Pete Yanity airing on ESPN+ beginning at 1:30 p.m. Eastern on Friday.


The 2021 Ingles SoCon Men’s Basketball Championship presented by General Shale will be held March 5-8 at Harrah’s Cherokee Center Asheville in Asheville, North Carolina, with the semifinals and final airing live on ESPN linear platforms.


2020-21 Preseason Southern Conference Coaches Poll

Team (1st-place votes)                   Total

1. UNCG (4)                                    76

2. Furman (5)                                  74

3. ETSU (1)                                     63

4. Mercer                                        56

5. Wofford                                       47

6. Western Carolina                         44

7. Chattanooga                                38

8. Samford                                      23

9. VMI                                             15

10. The Citadel                                14


2020-21 Preseason Player of the Year

Isaiah Miller, Sr., G, UNCG


2020-21 Preseason All-Southern Conference Team

Ledarrius Brewer, R-Jr., G, ETSU

Ty Brewer, Jr., F, ETSU

Mike Bothwell, Jr., G, Furman

Noah Gurley, Jr., F, Furman

Clay Mounce, Sr., F, Furman

Ross Cummings, R-Sr., G, Mercer

Jeff Gary, R-Jr., G, Mercer

Isaiah Miller, Sr., G, UNCG

David Jean-Baptiste, R-Sr., G, Chattanooga

Mason Faulkner, Sr., G, Western Carolina

Storm Murphy, Sr., G, Wofford


2020-21 Preseason Southern Conference Media Poll

Team (1st-place votes)                   Total

1. Furman (16)                                278

2. UNCG (9)                                    274

3. ETSU (4)                                     211

4. Mercer (1)                                   190

5. Wofford                                       184

6. Western Carolina                         175

7. Chattanooga                                150

8. Samford                                      79

9. VMI                                             61

10. The Citadel                                48