The Southland Conference has announced their annual preseason predictions for the upcoming basketball season, predicting a third-place finish for the Sam Houston State University men’s team and a second-place finish for the women’s team. Along with this, players from both teams were awarded preseason all-conference honors.
The men’s basketball team is projected to finish behind reigning champions Stephen F. Austin University and Abilene Christian University, who finished third last season, a spot above SHSU.
“I know I may sound redundant, but it’s one of the toughest, if not the toughest, nonconference schedules we’ve ever put together,” head coach Jason Hooten told gobearkats.com. “Three preseason Top 20 opponents, eight newcomers and a pandemic will give us plenty of early season challenges, but we are excited and looking forward to this opportunity.”
Junior guard Zach Nutall is the lone player on the men’s team to grab a preseason all-conference award, being named to the first team. This is after being named to the first team all-SLC last season. Nutall finished last season with 16.53 points per game, a 47.6 shooting percentage and 1.63 steals per game.
The men’s team finished last season with a record of 18-13 (11-9 in conference) but were unable to compete in the SLC tournament as the COVID-19 pandemic caused a cancellation before SHSU was able to play in their first game.
The women’s basketball team is also projected to finish behind Stephen F. Austin University, who received the most first place votes.
The team finished last season with a conference record of 14-6 (19-10 overall) but were also unable to compete in the SLC tournament.
Coach Ravon Justice understands how far along this team has come in such a short amount of time.
“I’ve never paid much attention to preseason polls,” Justice told gobearkats.com. “But it does say something about how the rest of our league sees us. We were picked to finish 13th before my first season here and now to be picked second shows that we are moving in the right direction.”
Both junior forward Amber Leggett and senior guard Faith Cook earned a spot on the preseason all-SLC first team
Leggett, who was also a second team all-defense selection last season, was the only player in the SLC to average over 15 points, five rebounds and two steals per game.
A season ago, Cook made a huge splash to the Bearkats offense and was able to grab the Southland Conference Newcomer of the Year award.
The basketball programs will begin their seasons close to Thanksgiving, with the men’s team opening their season in Dallas against Southern Methodist University on Nov. 25 and the women’s team beginning their season the same day in Huntsville against Midwestern State.