BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Grambling State has been picked to finish first in the 2018-19 Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) men’s basketball standings in a preseason poll conducted by the conference office from the league’s head coaches and sports information directors.

The announcement was made by the SWAC during its annual media teleconference call on Thursday.


The Tigers finished the 2017-18 season strong with conference-best marks of 17-14 overall and 13-5 in conference play to earn the program’s first regular-season championship since the 1988-89 season.  Reigning SWAC Coach of the Year Donte Jackson returns to the bench for his second season.

Following close behind for a projected second-place finish is Texas Southern, a program that has won the SWAC Championship in four of the previous five seasons and earned a 64-46 play-in round victory against North Carolina Central in the 2017 NCAA Tournament in Dayton, Ohio.

Arkansas-Pine Bluff, who vastly exceeded preseason projections last season, was selected to finish in third place after topping Mississippi Valley State and Southern in last year’s SWAC Tournament to reach the Championship game.

Prairie View A&M, a semifinalist from a year ago after defeating Alcorn State in a quarterfinal before falling to Texas Southern, was slotted fourth while Alabama State has been selected to finish in fifth place.

Rounding out the poll includes Southern, Alcorn State, Jackson State, Mississippi Valley State, and Alabama A&M.

2018-19 All-SWAC Preseason Men’s Basketball Team
Returning for his senior campaign, Arkansas-Pine Bluff guard Martaveous McKnight was named the SWAC Preseason Men’s Basketball Player of the Year. McKnight ranked third in the conference in scoring, averaging 18.6 points per game, was eighth in field percentage at 45.7%, fourth in assists at 3.6 per contest, third in steals per game at 1.9 per contest, ninth in 3-point percentage at 36.4%, seventh in 3-pointers made at 1.9 per game, fifth in assist to turnover ratio at 1.4, eighth in defensive rebounds per game at 3.9 and was ranked third in minutes with an average of 33.4 minutes logged per game.

The Walls, Miss. native scored in double figures in 22 games and had at least one steal in all, but three of his games played.  He had 16 games in which he made at least two 3-pointers and eight games in which he had at least five assists.  McKnight led the Golden Lions to their first championship game appearance since 2010.

The SWAC Preseason Defensive Player of the Year award went to Texas Southern redshirt senior center Trayvon Reed.  A near-unanimous selection, the 7-foot-2 Reed averaged a conference-best three blocks per game, was tied for first in rebounding with 8.8 per game, was first in defensive rebounds per game (6.2), was second in field goal percentage at 68.4%, and was ranked 22ndin scoring at 9.7 points per contest.

The Mobile, Ala. native was instrumental in protecting the net and helping the Tigers to a fourth title in the previous five seasons.

Joining McKnight and Reed on the All-SWAC Preseason First Team were guard Ivy Smith Jr. (Grambling State), and forwards Charles Jackson (Arkansas-Pine Bluff) and Dante Scott (Mississippi Valley State).

Smith Jr., a junior from Tacoma, Wash., ranked fourth in scoring at 16.7 points per game, second in assists at 5.0 per game, fourth in free throw percentage at 80.5%, second in steals at 2.0 per game and first in minutes played (35.1 per game).

Jackson, a senior from Cleveland, Miss., averaged 8.5 points per game (27th), 2.1 assists per game (11th), 1.1 steals per game (10th), 1.5 3-pointers made per game (14th) and was 15th in minutes per game (28.8).

Scott, a senior from Miami, Fla., ranked ninth in scoring at 14.9 points per contest, 10th in rebounding (5.6 per game), 12th in field goal percentage (42%), tied for eighth in free throw percentage (77.5%), seventh in 3-point percentage (37%), 15th in 3-pointers made at 1.5 per contest, 14th in offensive rebounds per game (1.7) and 11th in defensive rebounds per game (3.9) and ninth in minutes (31.6 per game).

In an event that a player was named to the First Team during the postseason and does not return, the second team player for that position was elevated to the First Team.  Players were ranked in their position based upon the number of votes received by the conference’s head coaches and sports information directors.

MEN’S 2018-19 PRESEASON AWARD WINNERS 
(Selected by SWAC Head Basketball Coaches and Sports Information Directors)

PRESEASON PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Martaveous McKnight, Arkansas-Pine Bluff

PRESEASON DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Trayvon Reed, Texas Southern

FIRST TEAM
Guard – Martaveous McKnight, Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Guard – Ivy Smith Jr., Grambling State
Forward – Charles Jackson, Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Forward – Dante Scott, Mississippi Valley State
Center – Trayvon Reed, Texas Southern

SECOND TEAM
Guard – Gary Blackston, Prairie View A&M
Guard – Reginald Gee, Alabama State
Forward – Devante Jackson, Grambling State
Forward – Sydney Umude, Southern
Center – Brandon Johnson, Alabama State

PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
1. Grambling State (173)
2. Texas Southern (151)
3. Arkansas-Pine Bluff (143)
4. Prairie View A&M (132)
5. Alabama State (107)
6. Southern (104)
7. Alcorn State (81)
8. Jackson State (72)
9. Mississippi Valley State (45)
10. Alabama A&M (37)

Courtesy: SWAC

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