Carson-Newman Eagles hoops ranked No. 21 in preseason poll
JEFFERSON CITY — The preseason accolades continue to roll in for Chuck Benson’s bunch.
Carson-Newman’s men’s basketball program starts the season no. 21 in the D2 Bulletin poll. Antoine Davis was named an All-American and DIIB Super 16 selection, while Ish Sanders earned honorable mention All-American honors.
The accolades are the Eagles second of the preseason. The Sporting News tabbed C-N as a team to watch in addition to naming Sanders and Davis preseason All-Americans.
“It’s exciting and I’m extra happy for Antoine and Ish,” Benson said. “Obviously for the team to be preseason No. 21 is not something we’ve experienced. But ultimately it doesn’t mean much because it’s preseason stuff. It’s a warm fuzzy, but it doesn’t mean anything.”
The Eagles won 20 games last year, the first 20-win season in a decade, before bowing out in the semifinals of the South Atlantic Conference tournament. The Eagles return 71 percent of their scoring from a year ago, including four starters and seven letter winners. C-N also brings back 77 percent of its made three pointers from a year ago, including a school record 99 from Sanders.
“What’s great is that Ish and Antoine have the humility and hunger to be able to handle these nice accolades,” Benson said.
“They’re focused on that day-to-day improvement instead and what’s going to happen at the end of the year. The team as a whole has accomplished nothing. Everything that’s been said right now is pure conjecture. We’ve not arrived yet and our kids know that from the top down.”
The SAC’s player of the year, Davis led the South Atlantic Conference in scoring (18.7 points per game) and made field goals (184). He had 506 points in 27 games, a starter in all of them, and enters 2013 seven points away from joining the 1,000-point club at Carson-Newman.
As a junior, he scored double figures in 20 consecutive contests, and if not for a game at Hiwassee in which he injured his foot and only played five minutes and scored three points, that string of games would be 29 and include every game of the season.
He has torched two opponents for 30 points. He went for a career best 36 against Queens (12/18). He hit a career high 13 field goals and a career high eight threes in that game. At Newberry (2/21), Davis crested 30 again, this time scoring 31 on 10-for-18 shooting. In that game he set a career mark for made free throws with eight. He scored double figures in 27 games this year, 20 points in 12 and has had at least five rebounds in 22 of them. A two-time South Atlantic Conference Player of the Week award winner, Davis became the first C-N player since 2003-2004 with multiple 30-point games in a single season.
“Those guys do a good job of keeping this kind of accolade in perspective,” Benson said. “They recognize that this is a preseason honor, and what matters most are those postseason accolades. We’re glad for them, but also take it perspective for what it is.”
Sanders was a first team All-SAC selection a year ago. The sharp-shooting guard finished second in the conference in scoring this season at 18.7 points per game and made 3.7 three-pointers per game, the second-most in the nation.
He finished the year with 520 points, which topped Antoine Davis by 14 points. A SAC Player of the Week award winner, Sanders turned in four consecutive 25-point performances, the longest such streak at Carson-Newman this century.
He was one of three SAC players with consecutive 25-point performances, but the only player who went beyond two. Sanders set a season high with 33 points in a home win against then league-leading Anderson (2/23).
The shooting guard went 11-for-22 from the field and 9-for-18 from three in that game. It was the fourth most threes in a single game in SAC history. In that contest, Sanders set Carson-Newman’s single season record for three pointers made – the previous record was 86, Sanders stands at 99 – which ranks fourth in the all-time SAC annals.
The Eagles open their season Nov. 15 against NCAA tournament participant Barton.
From Contributed Reports