NC’s mid-majors tip off 2018-19 season

Here’s an up-close look at nine of the state’s teams

NC Central’s Raasean Davis (32) is among the key returning players for coach Levelle Moton’s Eagles. (John Minchillo / AP Photo)

Over the past few weeks, the North State Journal sports staff has previewed some of the highest profile college basketball teams in our state.

Here is a look at the best of the rest, including a few with conference championship aspirations, two that have new coaches with familiar names and one with a player that could lead the nation in scoring:


Coach: Kevin McGeehan

2017-18 record: 18-16 (10-8 Big South)

Top returners: Chris Clemons, Sr. (24.9 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists); Andrew Eudy, Sr. (9.1 points, 4.9 rebounds); Cory Gensler, Jr. (7.3 points, 4.4 rebounds).

Top newcomers: Trey Spencer, Jr. (Holmes CC).

Clemons returns for his senior season as Campbell’s all-time leading scorer. His 23.0 career scoring average ranks first among active Division I players coming into the season, and his 44-point effort in an opening night win against UNCW got him off to a fast start in 2018-19. As good as the 5-foot-9 dynamo is — he’s also the team leader in assists — the Camels will only go as far as his supporting cast will allow.


Coach: Bob McKillop

2017-18 record: 21-12 (13-5 Atlantic 10)

Top returners: Kellan Grady, Soph. (18.0 points, 3.3 rebounds); Jon Ax Gudmundsson, Jr. (13.2 points, 6.0 rebounds, 5.1 assists); KiShawn Pritchett, Jr. (5.9 points, 2.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists).

Top newcomers: Luka Brajkovic, Fr. (Austria); Luke Frampton, R-Fr. (Poca, W.Va.).

The Wildcats continued their tradition of excellence by winning their first Atlantic 10 tournament title and putting a scare into Kentucky in the first round of last year’s NCAA tournament. Coach Bob McKillop’s 2018-19 team was picked to finish third in the conference and could be just as good as last season despite the loss of leading scorer Peyton Aldridge.


Coach: Matt Matheny

2017-18 record: 14-18 (6-12 CAA)

Top returners: Tyler Sebring, Jr. (15.4 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists); Dainan Swoope, Jr. (12.0 points, 3.1 rebounds, 3.0 assists); Steven Santa Ana, Sr. (9.7 points, 4.4 rebounds).

Top newcomers: Fredrico Poser, Fr. (Italy); Kris Wooten, Fr. (Kinston); Chuck Hannah, Fr. (Boston)

The Phoenix — which opened its new arena, the Schar Center, against UNC last Friday — looks to regroup after last season with a veteran nucleus led by 6-foot-8 junior Tyler Sebring, point guard Dainan Swoope and shooting guard Steven Santa Ana, whose main claim to fame to this point in his career is being on the receiving end of a Grayson Allen trip.


Coach: Tim Craft

2017-18 record: 14-18 (9-9 Big South)

Top returners: David Efianayi, Sr. (17.5 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists); D.J. Laster, Sr. (13.8 points, 5.4 rebounds), Jaheam Cornwall, Soph. (7.7 points, 2.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists).

Top newcomers: Jose Perez, Fr. (Bronx, N.Y.); Ludovic Dufeal, Fr. (Martinique).

The Bulldogs return three of their top four scorers as they look to move up the Big South standings. Enhancing their chances is the return of redshirt sophomore Nate Johnson, who missed the final 19 games last season, and the addition of freshmen Jose Perez and Ludovic Dufeal.

High Point

Coach: Tubby Smith

2017-18 record: 18-16 (10-8 Big South)

Top returners: Jahaad Proctor, Jr. (16.4 points, 3.6 rebounds, 3.6 assists); Brandon Kamga, Jr. (10.9 points, 3.4 rebounds); Jordan Whitehead, R-Sr. (5.2 points, 4.5 rebounds).

The Panthers return an experienced roster, with all but top scorer Andre Fox back from last year. The most significant newcomer isn’t a freshman, but rather new coach Tubby Smith. Yes, that Tubby Smith. The 67-year-old, who led Kentucky to a national championship in 1998, returns to his alma mater for what figures to be his final career chapter.


Coach: Jay Joyner

2017-18 record: 20-14 (11-5, MEAC)

Top returners: Aaren Edmead, Sr. (9.6 points, 2.0 rebounds, 2.9 assists); Kameron Langley, Soph. (7.4 points, 3.3 rebounds, 5.1 assists).

Top newcomers: Andre Jackson, Jr. (Manatee-Sarasota CC); Terry Harris, R-Sr. (Eastern Michigan); Qua Copeland, Jr. (Middle Tennessee State).

With only two returning regulars back — guards Kameron Langley and Aaren Edmead — the Aggies will rely on a collection of graduate transfers, a junior college transfer and a true freshman to build on last year’s 20-win season.

NC Central

Coach: Levelle Moton

2017-18 record: 19-16 (9-7 MEAC)

Top returners: Raasean Davis, R-Sr. (15.1 points, 8.1 rebounds); Reggie Gardner, Soph. (10.8 points, 1.8 rebounds); Jordan Perkins, Soph. (5.3 points, 2.9 rebounds, 5.8 assists).

Top newcomers: Randy Miller, Jr. (Moberly Area CC).

Unlike its in-state rival A&T, NCCU returns most of the important pieces — including all-MEAC big man Raasean Davis and guard Reggie Gardner Jr. — from a team that came on strong late to win the conference tournament and earn its fourth NCAA Tournament appearance since 2014.

UNC Asheville

Coach: Mike Morrell

2017-18 record: 21-13 (13-5 Big South)

Top returners: Jalen Seegars, Soph. (2.5 points, 1.2 rebounds).

Top newcomers: Devon Baker, Fr. (Dayton, Ohio); Tajion Jones, Fr. (Oak Ridge, Tenn.); Coty Jude, Fr. (Fort Gay, W.Va.).

The Bulldogs have one of the nation’s youngest coaches in former Texas assistant Mike Morrell, who took over after the departure of Nick McDevitt. Since most of last year’s team left with him, UNCA will also have one of the youngest rosters in the country with six freshmen and only one returner of significance.

Western Carolina

Coach: Mark Prosser

2017-18 record: 13-19 (8-10 Southern)

Top returners: Marc Gosselin, Sr. (8.8 points, 6.5 rebounds); Matt Halvorsen, Soph. (8.5 points, 1.1 rebounds); Onno Steger, Jr. (2.1 points, 0.9 rebounds).

Top newcomers: Carlos Dotson, Jr. (Central Florida CC); Kameron Gibson, Fr. (Cincinnati, Ohio); D.J. Myers, Fr. (Raleigh); Josh Cottrell, 6-2, Fr. (Hayesville).

The Catamounts were picked to finish 10th in the Southern Conference, but with the addition of high-energy big man Carlos Dotson, a talented freshman class and sophomore sharpshooter Matt Halvorsen, WCU has the potential to surprise under first-year coach Mark Prosser.