Walker named first team, Wolves picked fifth in SAC
ROCK HILL — The Newberry College men’s basketball team has been predicted to finish fifth in this season’s South Atlantic Conference standings, as chosen by the league’s coaches. Junior Dondray Walker has been selected as preseason first team all-conference.
The Wolves received 71 votes in the poll, behind Lincoln Memorial, Carson-Newman, Anderson and Wingate.
Walker, from Fountain Inn and Hillcrest HS, was a second team all-conference selection in both 2011-12 and 2012-13. He was Newberry’s leading scorer last year with 14.3 points per game, shooting 41.1 percent from the field.
He made 62 three-pointers in the season as Newberry went 14-13 overall, posting the scarlet and gray’s first consecutive winning seasons in 31 years. His 843 career points puts him just 157 points away from joining the 1,000-point club for his career.
The Wolves return eight players who helped them record a second consecutive winning season, a win on the road against a nationally ranked opponent and a win over a national championship team a year ago. The team remains young, playing almost all freshmen and sophomores last year and enters the 2013-14 campaign with only two seniors and three juniors.
Last year’s Wolves led the South Atlantic Conference in scoring for the third consecutive year with a conference record 88.1 points per game. Newberry also led the SAC in steals, assists, offensive rebounding, three-pointers made per game, free throws made per game and in forcing opponents’ turnovers.
The undersized Newberry squad also finished second in total rebounding in the SAC. The Wolves were ranked second nationally in NCAA Division II in forcing turnovers, third in both free throws made and three-pointers made per game, and were fourth nationally in scoring.
Sophomore Mitch Riggs was named to last year’s SAC All-Freshman Team averaging 11.2 points per game and had 17 games where he made three or more three-pointers, and scored 20 points on only 11 field goal attempts in the win over nationally ranked Lincoln Memoiral.
Junior Demarkus Smith was the Most Improved Player a year ago, averaging 10.2 points per game, he had 14 rebounds in a huge road win over Catawba and had a great off season. Sophomore Xavier Holmes averaged 8.5 points per game and four rebounds as a freshman, shot 58 percent from the field and had 10 rebounds three times.
Senior captain Brunes Charles averaged 7.3 points per game and 4.5 rebounds per game and had 17 points and eight rebounds in the biggest win of the year and had 11 rebounds in a win over Warren Wilson — alma mater of head coach Dave Davis — which ended up winning the USCAA National Championship in 2013.
Sophomore James Ashby had seven games with four or more rebounds and scored 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting vs Mars Hill. Sophomore Brandon Taylor played injured all last season but shows great promise and sophomore Davon Hill is the emotional leader.
The list of newcomers is quite exciting with as many as eight new players capable of contributing right away. Senior transfer Justin Cheek from High Point is long and tailor made for the Newberry fast paced system.
The freshman class is huge and led by Gerald Evans a 5-foot-6 point guard who will make a major impact on Newberry basketball. Evans averaged five steals a game in high school and had 30 points, six assists and seven steals in a state tournament semifinal game.
Center Vincent Hicklin is a strong athletic post who has made great strides in the preseason and will get a chance to play right away. Hicklin averaged 17 points and 12 rebounds a game and led Lower Richland to the region championship. Matt Spears averaged 16 points, five assists and six rebounds a game at Charlotte Country Day, Jamie Harper was a two time all-league performer who had 25 points vs.
Price and 20 points vs. Crenshaw and Solomon Ajose was an all-state guard who averaged 20 points per game as junior and senior, are each capable of playing multiple guard positions.
Cole Birchfield averaged 30 points per game and once scored 59 points including 13 three-pointers in a game, Guillermo Ruiz (Madrid, Spain) who played in the Real Madrid program and Mason Spease who once scored 37 points including 8-of-10 from the three-point line in a Charlotte Royals AAU game, can each really shoot the basketball.
The schedule is highlighted by three Division I games with an opening exhibition against the College of Charleston on November 2. Norfolk State is scheduled for November 13 and a trip to UAB is set for Jan. 4.
The home opener is against Armstrong Atlantic on Nov. 10 and with the addition of Coker and Queens to the South Atlantic Conference, a 22-game league schedule will prove to be quite challenging.
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