MACON, Ga. - FGCU earned top billing in the Atlantic Sun Conference preseason coaches’ poll, edging out ETSU, the two-time defending A-Sun champions, and Belmont, the conference announced on Wednesday.
FGCU, last season’s regular-season champions, tallied a 17-3 A-Sun record last season and return all five starters, including a pair of Preseason All-Atlantic Sun performers as they begin defense of their crown. One such player, Adrianne McNally, a senior from Howell, Mich., shined last season as she earned 2008-09 First-Team All-Atlantic Sun honors and A-Sun All-Academic honors. The forward started in all 31 games for the Eagles, averaging 14.6 points per game. McNally finished the season ranked first in field goal percentage (.505), fourth in scoring, sixth in assists (3.26) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.05), seventh in minutes (31.6) and 10th in rebounding (6.3).
Fellow Eagle Chelsea Lyles joined McNally on the Preseason All-Atlantic Sun squad. The senior, from Colorado Springs, Colo., had an astounding junior season where she earned First-Team All-Atlantic Sun honors and A-Sun All-Academic honors. The forward appeared in 31 games, making 29 starts, averaging 14.0 points. Lyles finished the season ranked third in 3-point percentage (.377), fourth in free throw percentage (.767) and sixth in scoring.
The ETSU Lady Bucs feature 2009 Preseason All-Conference Player of the Year Siarre Evans. Last season, the senior, from Griffin, Ga., earned Atlantic Sun Player of the Year, First-Team All-Conference, A-Sun Tournament MVP and a pair of A-Sun Player of the Week accolades. The NCAA Division I State Farm Coaches’ selected Evans as a finalist for All-America Basketball Team and she received a WBCA National Player of the Month Honorable Mention in February. She started in all 31 games and averaged a team high 34.7 minutes, leading the Lady Buccaneers and the A-Sun in scoring (16.4) and rebounding (10.3). Evans ranks sixth all-time on the ETSU scoring list (1,323 points) and seventh all-time on the ETSU rebounding charts (779), scoring in double figures in 27 of the 31 games and tallying 18 double-doubles as a junior, moving her career total to 33. Evans also averaged 16 points and 12.5 rebounds at the Atlantic Sun Tournament.
Latisha Belcher joined her teammate Evans on the 2009 Preseason All-Conference Team. The senior, from Martinsville, Ga., had a stellar junior season where she earned Atlantic Sun Defensive Player of the Year and Second-Team All-Conference honors. Belcher led ETSU and the A-Sun with 91 steals (2.9 per game), setting a new Lady Bucs single-season record. She scored in double figures in 20 of the 31 games and recorded three double-doubles. A third member of the Lady Buccaneers, TaRonda Wiles, made the Preseason All-Conference team. Last season, the senior from Danville, Ga., earned First-Team All-Conference and Atlantic Sun All-Tournament Team accolades. Wiles ranked second in the A-Sun and team in scoring (16.2), as she scored in double figures in 25 of the 31 games.
Belmont took third in the coaches’ poll, 14 points behind ETSU. The Bruins’ representation on the Preseason All-Atlantic Sun team comes courtesy of guard Amber Rockwell. The senior, from Tuscaloosa Ala., played in all 31 contests and started in all but one. The senior led the Bruins in scoring, three-point field-goal percentage (.360), three-point field goals made (73), field goals made (147) and minutes played. In the A-Sun, Rockwell placed third in scoring (14.7 points per game), third in free-throw percentage (.783), third in three-point field goals made and eighth in three-point field-goal percentage. Rockwell also earned a spot on the All-Tournament Team.
Jacksonville landed fourth in the poll and placed guard Courtney Jackson on the 2009 Preseason All-Atlantic Sun team. Last year, the senior from Atlanta shared the A-Sun “Player of the Week” honor for December 22 after averaging 18.3 points and five rebounds, while shooting a blistering 51.4 percent (19-37) from the field and 52.2 percent (12-23) from beyond the arc in three games. The senior played in 30 games, including 18 starts and led the team in 3-point field goals (40), and tallied at least one steal in the each of her final 12 games.
Mercer, Kennesaw State, Stetson, USC Upstate, UNF, Lipscomb and Campbell secured the fifth through 11th slots. Mercer senior LaToya Jackson made the Preseason All-Atlantic Sun Team. In 2008-09, Jackson had a knockout season, recording games of 23 points against South Alabama, and 19 points against High Point within a five-day span. In both of those games, the guard made five three-point shots and shot 50 percent or better from behind the arc. In January, Jackson scored a career-high 31 points against Belmont, scoring 23 points in the second half while shooting 6-of-9 from three-point range on the contest.
KSU placed guard Greteya Kelley, a senior from Lawrenceville, Ga., on the Preseason All-Atlantic Sun squad. Last season, the guard played in 28 games, including 27 starts as a junior, leading the Owls with 2.64 steals per game. Kelley led Kennesaw State in scoring in back–to-back A-Sun contests against Campbell and Jacksonville, stuffing the box score with 35 points, 11 steals, 13 rebounds and six assists in the two games. On January 21, she netted the game-winning 3-pointer against Lipscomb, giving Coach Colby Tilley his 700th career win.
USC Upstate returns their top six scorers, including Chelsea McMillan, to round out the Preseason All-Atlantic Sun squad. The junior, from Quincy, Fla., is the second player in school history to earn Preseason All-Atlantic Sun honors, joining Courtney Hawkins, who was a part of the 2008-09 Preseason All-Atlantic Sun Team. The forward finished the 2009 season as one of only three players in the A-Sun to finish in the top 10 in scoring and rebounding, 10th in the A-Sun in scoring (12.2) and third in rebounding (7.8) per game as a sophomore. McMillan also finished third in the A-Sun with an average of 1.50 blocked shots per game.
The women's basketball season begins on November 5 and will conclude in Macon, Ga., as Mercer hosts its first Atlantic Sun Championship. The Championship takes place from March 3-6.
The Atlantic Sun Conference is an 11-member league committed to Building Winners for Life, with a focus on academic and athletic integrity and a balance between the two for the student-athlete, and maintaining a high level of sportsmanship. Headquartered in Macon, Ga., the A-Sun encompasses six of the top eight media markets in the Southeast. The A-Sun consists of some of the most dynamic private and public institutions in the region: Belmont University, Campbell University, East Tennessee State University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Jacksonville University, Kennesaw State University, Lipscomb University, Mercer University, University of North Florida, University of South Carolina Upstate and Stetson University.
|2009 Women's Basketball A-Sun Preseason Coaches Poll|
|#||School (1st Place Vote)||Points|
Tournament Champion: ETSU (8 votes)
|2009 Women's Basketball A-Sun Preseason Media Poll|
|#||School (1st Place Vote)||Points|
Tournament Champion: ETSU (14 votes)