NAIA Hoops Report: Preseason DI Top 25
It’s October!! Which means we finally have REAL games tipping off this month. With that in mind, we thought it would be fun to come out with our first ever NAIA Hoops Report Rankings. These rankings, by no means, mean anything. They are purely for fun, and we hope you enjoy our outlook on how teams look across the country!
- Georgetown (KY) – Plain and simple, they are the defending NAIA DI National Champs and return two All-Americans from that team that went 33-4 last season. The rich get richer too, as they added 3 NCAA D1 transfers in Siena transfer, Nico Clareth, Iona transfer, Jahnathan Maxwell, and Western Kentucky transfer Jake Ohner. JUCO transfers Michael Turay and Jared Grubb will also add to the depth. Coach Briggs is one of the best coaches at any level of college basketball and will have his team looking to be the first NAIA repeat champs since Oklahoma City did it in 2007-08.
- The Master’s (CA) – While they lose their top two scorers from 2018-19, they return 6’10 Tim Soares (15.8ppg), 6’7 Brock Gardner (14.3ppg), and 6’0 Darryl McDowell-White (10.5ppg). The Master’s have struggled at the NAIA National Tournament the past couple years, but they will be a real contender in Kansas City.
- Pikeville (KY) – All-American Luke Layhew returns, alongside 2nd Team all Mid-South Xavier Gaona, and the fiesty and fearless Jerrod Perry. Add in JUCO Transfers Deandre Barton and Fode Camara, and D1 transfer Josh Green to the mix, and Pikeville is loaded once again!
- LSU – Shreveport (LA) – Coach Blankenship doing what he does best by reloading his roster up again. Former SAGU All-American Cam Hill, joins NCAA D1 Transfers 6’3 Tra’Quan Knight (Detroit), 6’0 Kadavion Evans (LA-Lafayette), and 6’8 Andre Washington (Louisiana-Monroe). They also bring in Jamani Glover from NCAA D2 UTPB. They have had a lot of good teams at LSU-S during Coach Blankenship’s time as Head Coach, but this may be his best team yet!
- William Carey (MS) – Head Coach Steve Knight gets the luxery of having 10 guys return from last years NAIA Elite 8 team. Added to the returners are D1 Transfers Jonathan Floyd, and 6’9 Demetrice Clopton. The Southern States league is loaded this year, but William Carey will be tough to beat.
- Talladega (AL) – One of the most talented roster, on paper, in the country. They bring in 13 newcomers, including SEVEN NCAA D1 transfers. They have good size with 6’9 Utah State transfer, Ngor Barnaba, 6’7 South Carolina transfer, Ray Doby, and 6’7 South Alabama transfer, RJ Kelly. They should also get solid guard play from D2 West Georgia transfer Paul Turner, and University of Houton transfer Morris Dunnigan. If they can figure it out, they will be as dangerous as any team come March.
- LSU-Alexandria (LA) – All Larry Cordero has done since starting the program from scratch is WIN. He’s got a different group this season as he’s going to lean on returners such as Chris Vickers (11.6ppg/4.1rpg), and Brandon Ellis (8.5ppg/3.4apg). Their newly founded Red Shirt program brings them back Anthony Stove (7.3ppg) and Trent Brinkley (5.9ppg/4.6rpg). Also off of Red Shirt years is Emmanuel Thompson and Thadd Middleton. LSU-A added 6’9 Texas Wesleyan big man Julian Torres (14.7ppg), 5’10 Montrey Thomas who was GCAC Freshman of the Year a few years back at Dillard, and 6’1 JR Adams who was a 2nd Team All Mid-South player at Lindsey Wilson last season.
- Benedictine (KS) – Losing two All-Americans is never easy, but it’s hard to not put the reigning Heart of America Champs inside of the Top 10. They do have a few unknowns headed into the season, but if Eric Krus (12.3ppg/5.5rpg) is healthy, him and Jaydon Bristol (10.5ppg/5.0rpg/5.3apg) can help lead this young group. They also add 6’0 Matt Austin who averaged 22ppg in Junior College last season, to help offset some of the scoring they lost from last season.
- William Penn (IA) – John Henry’s team has a different look to it this season, as they only have one senior on the entire roster in 6’4 Dexter Hood. They do get 5’10 Q Cager (11.4ppg) back from a mid season injury, and a return a couple of part time starters in 6’9 Eddie Daily, and 6’3 Malyk Thomas. The new additions to the team include NCAA D1 transfers 6’4 Kamari Newman (Oakland University), and 6’9 Nate Ghering. They also bring in two D2 Queens University transfers 6’2 Brandon Faison, and 6’7 Kevion Blaylock that will be good pieces for the Statesmen.
- Bethel (TN) – Cayden Edmonson (14.3ppg/7.3rpg) and Noah Chatman (8.7ppg/8.5rpg) are the lone two starters from a team that has 10 returners back from a team that reached the NAIA Sweet 16 last season. Joining the mix will be JUCO transfers Myron McKinney, and Kamron Rose. Head Coach Jeff Britt
- Wayland Baptist (TX) – A tough first round pairing at nationals last year should leave this team hungry. The good news is that 1st Team All-American JJ Culver is one of three starters back. Culver led the team in points per game (17.6), rebounds per game (6.6), assists per game (3.0), and steals per game (1.75). They also add some good size with four JUCO transfers who are 6’6 or taller.
- Lewis-Clark St. (ID) – One of the best young coaches in NAIA, Austin Johnson returns five guys, including 5’9 All-American Damek Mitchell, from a team that reached the NAIA DI Fab Four last season.
- Arizona Christian – A hot streak saw this team make it to the NAIA DI Quarterfinals as a 7-seed. They do have three starters return in Terrence Shelby (17.7ppg), Shane Carney (16.6ppg), and Al Burge (8.4ppg). They add in JUCO transfers 6’9 Robby Wilson, 5’10 Kenny Sutton, and 6’7 Xander Bowers.
- Providence (MT) – Leading scorer and All-American PG Brandon Cotton (17.4ppg) returns and they add Zaccheus Darko-Kelly, who was a 2018 2nd Team All-American at Montana Western, before sitting out last season due to transfer rules. Cotton and Kelly will be a tough duo up in the Frontier league. Coach Steve Keller had things rolling at Montana Western before leaving for Providence, and I think, in year two, he helps to lead Providence to Kansas City.
- Life (GA) – Coach Kevin Easley is in his 2nd season at the helm at Life U. After tying for 3rd in the ever tough Mid-South last season, the Running Eagles had some rebuilding to do, and Coach Easley and staff have done a great job building this team. They return Connor Gamble, Mike White, Tory Ferguson, and Cam Horton. All of which started some games for them last season. Malik Burett (Troy), Antwan Maxwell (Youngstown St), and Jeremy Joyner (UT Martin) are all D1 transfers who should help them right away. A youngster to keep an eye on is the freshman from Miami, Jordan Hernandez.
- Science and Arts (OK) – A team that caught fire in Kansas City last season before losing in the NAIA DI Quarterfinals. Five returners are back, including two guys who started 10 or more games in Stephon Hall (9.3ppg), and Cameron Hines (14.0ppg). Coach Chris Francis and staff were able to build around their returners with seven newcomers that should be able to contribute. Transfers 6’5 Colen Gaynor (MD-Eastern Shore), 6’8 Dylan Causwell (Southeastern), 5’7 Trenton Sandfier (Midwestern St.), and 6’3 Moses Byekwaso (Northeast) will all look to help lead the charge in the Drovers competing for a Sooner Athletic Conference title and a trip back to the NAIA DI National Tournament.
- William Jessup (CA) – Head Coach Lance Von Vogt is great, so while this is a starting point, I expect them to have a great year. Only one starter back in Isiah Milan (11.3ppg). They do have a few guys coming off of RS years, and a couple transfers that should be able to step in and have an immediate impact.
- Carroll (MT) – While they lost 2 All-Americans from a team who made the NAIA DI Semifinals, they still return All-American Dane Warp (16.3ppg). They are really young, but youngsters Shamrock Campbell and Jovan Sljivancanin earned some starts last season, and should be able to use that experience to help to make Carroll a contender in the Frontier Conference.
- Vanguard (CA) – The Lions return two starters and five returners from a team that was ranked in the top 10 headed into the national tournament last season. They add D1 transfers Keiran Edwards (UMASS), and Aziz Seck (N. Arizona). Mike McGee from Cypress should also have an immediate impact for the Lions.
- Loyola (LA) – A young, but loaded team. Loyola got some good experience in the NAIA DI National tournament last season, and return their top three scorers from last season, including two All-Americans in Sophomores Zach Wrightsil and Myles Burns. They add to that core JUCO transfers Nick Phillips, and Matt Maturah, as well as D1 Transfer Tim Cameron.
- Park (MO) – This will be there last year in the American Midwest Conference before moving to the Heart of America next season. They finished 2nd in the league last year, and Allen Hyatt (11.5ppg), Blue Johnson (10.2ppg), Ernest Myles III (8.3ppg), and Brandon Townsell (7.1ppg) all return for the Pirates.
- Stillman (AL) – 1st team All-American Prince McDaniel (20.1ppg/5.7rpg) leads a Stillman group that only returns two players from last season. McDaniel will be one of the top players in the country this season, and will help Stillman to compete for another Southern States Athletic Conference title.
- Mid-America Christian (OK) – An NAIA Sweet 16 team from last season. MACU does get starter Dominick Ford (7.3ppg) back, however Coach Josh Gamblin had to reload the roster. Cedrick Wright (Thomas), D’Von Moore (Clayton St), Demarius Brooks (Copiah-Lincoln) and Ashford Golden, are just a few of the newcomers who are capable of being significant contributors this season.
- MidAmerica Nazarene (KS) – All-American and the #1 shot blocker per game in NAIA, Dakota Quinn, leads eight returners, and three starters back for the Pioneers. Legendary coach Rocky Lamar is still at the helm for MNU, and knows what it takes to compete for a Heart championship.
- Xavier (LA) – 2 All-Americans, William Lloyd (14.0ppg/6.2rpg) and Rayshawn Mart (12.1ppg/5.1rpg) return along side of starter Ed Carter, and five other returners who played good minutes last season. Our Lady of the Lake transfers Ethan White will add some big time scoring help.
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