Senior guard Tony Hooper was named to the Preseason All-Sun Belt Conference Second Team and the ULM men's basketball team was projected to finish fifth in a hotly-contested West Division by the league coaches, announced Monday afternoon.
"It is exciting to have the preseason polls out," ULM head coach Orlando Early said. "It is great for the fans and helps build the excitement for basketball. Obviously, they don't mean a whole lot. We were picked to finish last [in 2006-07] then finished first. We were picked to finish first [in 2007-08] then finished last. This year we are right in the middle."
ULM picked up 39 total points in a West Division that saw three teams grab multiple first place votes. UALR and North Texas tied for first overall with 76 points each, while the Trojans were awarded six first place votes. The Mean Green (four first place votes) and the Ragin' Cajuns of Louisiana-Lafayette (three first place votes) rounded out the top three in the West.
Under the direction of new head coach John Brady, Arkansas State came in fourth in the West with 43 total points – four ahead of ULM. Denver (35 points) and New Orleans (20 points) rounded out the seven-team West Division.
"This division is tough year in and year out," Early said. "This particularly is a year in which the West Division is pretty even from top to bottom. New Orleans – picked to finish last – is a team that will really surprise people this season. A lot of teams have a lot of experience returning and will make the West tough every single night."
In the East, Middle Tennessee took home 11 first place votes and the top spot with 76 total points. South Alabama finished with the other two first place votes and was projected to finish second. Western Kentucky (52 points), Florida Atlantic (38 points), Florida International (33 points) and Troy (14 points) rounded out the order in the East Division.
Hooper was named to the league's preseason team for the third time in his career, including his second straight year as a second-team selection. ULM's leading scorer as a junior, the Houston, Texas, native has the third-highest average amongst returning league players.
"Tony has been a pretty good player for us during his career," Early said. "We are excited for him to be picked as a second team all-conference guy. It is a team deal though. Your team has to help get you there and Tony realizes that. His teammates are important for him to play well. We are really happy and proud of him. He has worked hard and is excited to get the year underway."
ULM opens the 2008-09 campaign at home on November 14 when it hosts Morehead State at 7 p.m. in Fant-Ewing Coliseum. The Warhawks will host their only exhibition game – against William Carey University – on November 5.
1. Middle Tennessee 76 points (11 first-place votes)
2. South Alabama 60 points (2 first-place votes)
3. WKU 52 points
4. Florida Atlantic 38 points
5. FIU 33 points
6. Troy 14 points
1. UALR 76 points (6 first-place votes)
1. North Texas 76 points (4 first-place votes)
3. Louisiana-Lafayette 75 points (3 first-place votes)
4. Arkansas State 43 points
5. ULM 39 points
6. Denver 35 points
7. New Orleans 20 points
PRESEASON PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Desmond Yates, MT
ALL-SBC FIRST TEAM
Carlos Monroe, FAU
Russell Hicks, FIU
Desmond Yates, MT
Josh White, NT
Brandon Davis, USA
ALL-SBC SECOND TEAM
Tony Hooper, ULM
Kevin Kanaskie, MT
Collin Dennis, NT
Domonic Tilford, USA
Jeremy Evans, WKU
ALL-SBC THIRD TEAM
Steven Moore, UALR
Paul Graham III, FAU
Chris Gradnigo, ULL
Kyndall Dykes, UNO
A.J. Slaughter, WKU