Deep Davidson team ready to return to NCAA Tournament

Wildcats return nine of top 10 scorers

Davidson guard Jon Axel Gudmundsson is one of two Wildcats on the 50-player preseason watchlist for the Naismith Award. (Mary Altaffer / AP Photo)

Fifty players were named to the preseason watch list for the Citizen Naismith Trophy, given to college basketball’s best player. Zion Williamson won it last season.

Only seven programs placed two players on the watch list: No. 1 Michigan State, No. 2 Kentucky, No. 3 Kansas, No. 4 Duke, No. 6 Florida, No. 7 Maryland …

… and Davidson.

The Wildcats may not be ranked (although their 34 points are more than Houston, Georgetown, Cincinnati and NC State combined), but they’re loaded with talent heading into 2019-20. In fact, while there may not be a Steph Curry on this season’s roster, this could be the most talented Davidson team of the post-Curry era.

Nine of the top 10 scorers return from last season’s 23-8 NIT team.

Bob McKillop’s Wildcats will be led by Jon Axel Gudmundsson. The senior from Iceland was fourth in the Atlantic 10 in scoring (16.9 points), seventh in rebounding (7.3) and fifth in assists (4.8). He’s also one of the most accurate 3-point and free-throw shooters in the conference. Heading into his final season, Gudmundsson is already the first player in Davidson history to score 1,000 points, grab 500 rebounds and dish out 400 assists.

Gudmundsson is one of the two watch-list players. The other is junior Kellan Grady, who was the team’s scoring leader and third in the A-10 with 17.3 points per game. Grady was also named to the watch list for the Jerry West Award, given to the nation’s top shooting guard.

Also back are KiShawn Pritchett, who hits nearly 44 percent from 3-point range. Luke Frampton is another long-range threat who had 100 made threes last year. Luka Brajkovic (11.1 points per game) will be the lone big man in the four-guard lineup. He averages six rebounds and hit nearly 55 percent of his shots last season.

In addition to the returning players, McKillop has three newcomers on the roster. Mike Jones redshirted last season due to injury but he’s ready to contribute this season. He averaged more than 30 points per game in high school, so he should fit right into the high-scoring guard lineup.

The two true freshmen are both international players who will back up the forward spot. Hyunjung Lee is a 6-foot-7 swingman from Korea. He was Team Korea’s leading scorer at the 2018 U18 Asia Basketball Championships, averaging 26 points per game.

David Kristensen is a 6-foot-10 power forward and a member of Denmark’s Senior National Team.

Davidson’s goal is to return to the NCAA Tournament and make some noise in March. The Wildcats have a nonconference schedule that should help them reach those goals. Davidson opens with Auburn and also plays Wake Forest and Marquette, all on neutral courts, as well as a road game at Vanderbilt.

“I think they have a chance to be a very special team,” McKillop said at the Atlantic 10’s media day, where the Wildcats were picked to finish second this season. “They’ll have some obstacles to overcome, but we definitely have the ingredients to be a special team.”