The UALR men's basketball team has been picked to finish third in the Sun Belt Conference West Division this season led by preseason First Team All-SBC selection Will Neighbour. UALR went 12-4 in league play last season to win its fifth SBC Division Championship in nine years under head coach Steve Shields, more than any other Sun Belt program during his tenure, but lost three starters off last year's squad – including First Team All-SBC selection D'Andre Williams.
In addition to the preseason All-Sun Belt Team and coaches' poll, the league office unveiled its television package for the 2012-13 season, which includes a potential ESPN2 game for the Trojans. UALR's game at North Texas on Jan. 26 has been selected as a Wildcard game by ESPN. As the date draws closer, ESPN will elect to televise either the game between UALR and North Texas, or Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee.
The Sun Belt Network will visit the Jack Stephens Center on Jan. 12 to televise the game between UALR and Florida International at 3:30 p.m. Sun Belt Network games are carried by Comcast Sports Southeast (CSS) and Cox Sports Television (CST), and will likely be available through ESPN3 and ESPN's FullCourt package. The Trojans also have a television game lined up at Cincinnati on Dec. 6 (Fox Sports Ohio), as well as an ESPN3 game against Middle Tennessee on Jan. 16 in Murfreesboro, Tenn.
Middle Tennessee and North Texas were tabbed as the favorites in the East and West Divisions, respectively, after receiving all 11 first-place votes. NT is led by Sun Belt Preseason Player of the Year Tony Mitchell, who was joined on the preseason All-Sun Belt First Team by Neighbour, Marcos Knight (MT), Augustine Rubit (South Alabama) and Trey Finn (Arkansas State).
Neighbour earned Second Team All-Sun Belt honors as a sophomore in 2011-12, despite battling a torn labrum in his shoulder throughout the second half of the season. The 6-10 forward played in 29 games with 18 starts during the 2011-12 season, ranking second on the team in scoring (10.5 ppg) and rebounding (5.3 rpg), while leading the Trojans in three-point shooting (.413) and made three pointers (43).
The Grayshott, England-native was named Sun Belt Player of the Week on Jan. 2 after averaging 18.5 points and 8.5 rebounds in road wins at North Texas and Denver. He was UALR's leading scorer and rebounder through the first 15 games of the season, but suffered a torn labrum in the final seconds of UALR's win at DU (12/31). He missed two games following the injury and then averaged just 6.3 points over the ensuing seven games before bouncing back with a career-high 22 points at Middle Tennessee.
UALR opens the 2012-13 season on Friday, Nov. 9 when it hosts UT Martin at the Jack Stephens Center at 7 p.m. The team's annual Meet the Trojans event will take place on Thursday, Nov. 1 and is open to the public.
2012-13 Preseason All-Sun Belt Conference Teams
First Team All-Sun Belt
Will Neighbour (UALR, Jr., Forward)
Trey Finn (Arkansas State, Sr., Guard)
Marcos Knight (Middle Tennessee, Sr., Guard)
Tony Mitchell (North Texas, So., Forward)
Augustine Rubit (South Alabama, Jr., Forward)
Second Team All-Sun Belt
Brandon Peterson (Arkansas State, Sr., Forward)
Greg Gantt (Florida Atlantic, Sr., Guard)
JT Sulton (Middle Tennessee, Sr., Forward)
Bruce Massey (Middle Tennessee, Sr., Guard)
George Fant (WKU, So., Forward)
Third Team All-Sun Belt
Marcus Hooten (Arkansas State, Sr., Guard)
Raymond Cintron (Middle Tennessee, Sr., Guard)
Javier Carter (South Alabama, Sr., Forward)
Freddie Goldstein (South Alabama, Sr., Guard)
T.J. Price (WKU, So., Guard)
Preseason Player of the Year
Tony Mitchell (North Texas, So., Forward)
2012-13 Preseason Sun Belt Coaches' Poll
First Place Votes in Parentheses
1. Middle Tennessee – 65 points (11)
2. South Alabama – 51 points
3. WKU – 47 points
4. Florida Atlantic – 29 points
5. Troy – 22 points
6. FIU – 17 points
1. North Texas – 55 points (11)
2. Arkansas State – 40 points
3. UALR – 33 points
4. Louisiana-Lafayette – 24 points
5. Louisiana-Monroe – 13 points
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