FLORENCE, S.C. – The Francis Marion University women’s and men’s basketball teams have been picked to finish ninth and 11th respectively during the 2002-03 Peach Belt Conference season, according to the annual preseason PBC coaches’ polls.
Coaches were not allowed to rank their own teams. Each first-place vote was worth 11 points, a second-place vote 10 points and so on.
Kennesaw State University is the coaches’ choice to win the women’s title, albeit by the narrowest margin in the history of the poll. KSU finished with 110 points, while defending regular-season champion USC Aiken was second with 108 and the University of North Florida third with 103. Both KSU and USCA garnered four first-place votes.
Columbus State University was fourth in the voting with 92 points, followed by Georgia College & State University (76), Armstrong Atlantic State University (73), Clayton College & State University (55), UNC Pembroke (53), FMU (42), USC Spartanburg (34), Lander University (24), and Augusta State University (22).
First-year Francis Marion head coach Valecia Tedder welcomes back six letterwinners from last season's 16-11 squad that tied for second in the PBC’s North Division. The Patriots missed earning an invitation to the NCAA national tournament for the first time in six seasons, and are looking to return to post-season play.
Senior 6-0 center Jontell Johnson (10.2 ppg, 9.7 rpg) leads the returnees. The Charleston, S.C., native needs only six blocked shots to break the Peach Belt career mark of 169. Six freshmen, four of whom are 6-0 or taller, and transfers 5-11 Erin Torpey (North Idaho College) and 6-2 Marta Losonczy (Charleston Southern University) round out the roster.
The Patriots have won 81 of their last 90 home contests. Eight of the team's 11 losses in 2001-02 were by seven points or less, with two coming in overtime.
In the men’s poll, Columbus State has been selected as the preseason favorite for the second straight year. The Cougars received six first-place votes and three second-place votes to secure the top spot with 112 total points.
Defending PBC regular-season champion Clayton State was second with 105 points, followed by 2002 PBC Tournament champion Augusta State (86), GC&SU (85), Kennesaw State and North Florida (75), AASU (61), USCS (48), USCA (45), Lander (40), Francis Marion (35), and UNCP (25).
Third-year head coach John Schweitz welcomes back two lettermen, including All-Conference candidate Louis McCullough (16.1 ppg, 7.7 rpg), from last season's squad that finished 4-23 and placed sixth in the PBC's North Division standings. Seven of the team's defeats were by single digits, including two early-season one-point losses. McCullough, the half brother of NBA superstar Kevin Garnett and cousin of former UNC player and current Seattle Supersonic Shammond Williams, led the team in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots. His scoring average was the second-highest average for a freshman in team history - second only to Allen Floyd's 21.9 ppg average in 1971-72.
Twelve newcomers are on this season's roster, including three junior college players (Randy Williams, James McQueen, Jaquan Bracey) who attended FMU last year, but were redshirted. Two backcourt transfers, David Hawkins (Bethune Cookman University) and Jarron Hinton (Mercyhurst College), should also provide immediate contributions.
The Patriot women’s team opens its 2002-03 season by hosting the FMU/Sleep Inn Classic on Nov. 22-23. The men’s squad will open its season Nov. 23 at NCAA Division I Campbell University.