Bears receiving votes in NAIA preseason coaches poll

PORTSMOUTH — In the first preseason poll as part of the NAIA’s transition from two divisions to one central division, the men’s basketball program at Shawnee State was able to garner four points in the NAIA Men’s Basketball Preseason Coaches Poll Wednesday morning — as one of four Mid-South Conference teams to appear in the poll.

The Bears, which finished 21-11 last season, went 9-7 in Mid-South Conference competition and return MSC Defensive Player of the Year, MSC First-Teamer and NAIA Honorable Mention All-American E.J. Onu — along with fellow returnees Jakiel Wells, Dakota Pritchard, Bailey Davis and Kobie Johnson from a unit that collected the school’s first-ever NAIA Tournament bid in men’s basketball in March.

Onu, who holds the school’s all-time record in blocked shots with 379, needs 229 blocks this season to tie a 45-year-old record set by Winona State’s (Minn.) Gus Johnson for total blocked shots in a career.

Johnson was drafted by the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks following his own prolific career.

Along with the returnees, the Bears added Honorable Mention all-Mondak Conference talent Jame Jones — who originally signed with Buffalo and former head coach Nate Oates out of high school — and Donoven Carlisle, who started for two seasons at NCAA Division I Denver before spending last season at Texas-Permian Basin.

The Ohio High School Athletic Association’s all-time leader in three-point shooting percentage, Tre Beard of Chillicothe, along with Hocking College and former Pleasure Ridge Park High School standout Shawn Paris Jr., 6-7 multi-positional talent Issac Abergut and 6-6 combo forward Amier Gilmore are among many in a strong nucleus of players who will make an impact for a team that looks to defend its top national rankings in field-goal percentage (35 percent), blocks per game (7.1) and total blocks (227) — along with maintaining high achievement in rebounding margin (plus-12.1) and total rebounds per game (44.9).

Georgetown (Ky.), which won the NAIA Division I Championship in 2019, headed up the combined poll by scoring 12 first-place votes and 578 points.

The Tigers finished 30-2 in the 2019-20 season and have won the MSC Tournament Championship in each of the last two seasons.

Cumberlands (Ky.) posted 282 points to score a 15th-place showing in the preseason poll, while Thomas More (Ky.) — with 107 points — sits as the first team outside of the poll in the receiving votes category.

In addition to the above three conference foes, Shawnee State also played Indiana Wesleyan, which appeared at No. 3 in the poll with 555 points and five first-place votes, and Dalton State (Ga.), which notched 257 points and an 18th-place finish in the polls last season.

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