NEW ORLEANS (SunBeltSports.org) – After posting one of most prolific single seasons in WKU basketball history, Alexis Govan was chosen as the 2013-14 Sun Belt Conference Preseason Player of the Year and the UALR Trojans were tabbed as the preseason favorite, the conference office announced Tuesday. Voting for the Preseason All-Sun Belt Conference Team and Poll was conducted by the league's 10 head coaches.
Govan, a junior, finished second in scoring in the league last year averaging 20.3 points per game while adding 6.1 rebounds per contest. She shot 79 percent from the free-throw line as she helped guide the Lady Toppers to a 22-11 record last season.
UALR, one of four teams in the league this season to return all five starters from a season ago, finished the 2012-13 campaign 24-9 overall and 14-6 in league play winning its fifth Western Division crown. The Trojans received six first-place votes and 95 total points.
UALR's Taylor twosome (Taylor Ford, Taylor Gault) are back in 2013-14 as the duo accounted for 38 percent of the Trojans' offense last year. Both Ford and Gault were named to the Preseason First Team.
Gault, a former SBC tournament Most Outstanding Player and Freshman of the Year, returns for her junior season after leading the Trojans with 13.9 points per game in 2012-13. Ford, a senior, led the conference with 4.5 assists per game while ranking second on the Trojans with 9.9 points per game and third with 5.4 rebounds per game.
This season, head coach Joe Foley and the Trojans face a challenging non-conference schedule as they are set to take on four teams that participated in the 2013 NCAA tournament.
Govan's Lady Toppers were picked to finish second in the league behind UALR, as WKU garnered 92 points and four first-place votes from the coaches.
WKU and second-year head coach Michelle Clark-Heard look to continue the success that began last season. Clark-Heard and her Lady Toppers saw an eight-game improvement from two seasons ago to last year when WKU won 13 conference games. It marked the highest single-season turnaround in league history.
The Lady Toppers return all five starters from a season ago, including Govan and Preseason First Team selection Chastity Gooch. Gooch and Govan were joined on the preseason lists by Biance McGee who was selected to the Preseason Third Team. Those three combined for 48.7 of WKU's 68.7 points per game last season and more than half of its rebounds per game.
Brian Boyer's Arkansas State squad was picked to finish third in the league. A-State garnered 82 points from the coaches after a 15-15 season in 2012-13. The Red Wolves are led by senior mainstay, Jane Morrill, who has played in every single game since her freshman season.
Morrill, a Preseason First Team selection, led A-State with 14.3 points per game a year ago and 5.4 rebounds per contest. A-State's Jalen O'Bannon, a sophomore, was named to the Preseason Third Team.
Troy was picked to finish fourth in the league. The Trojans, 7-24 a season ago, return three starters from last year's squad including team leaders Joanna Harden and Ashley Beverly-Kelley. Harden, a Preseason Second Team selection, and Beverly-Kelley, a Preseason Third Team selection, will be counted upon heavily for offensive production. Harden, a senior, led the Trojans in scoring with a 15.3 average, while Beverly-Kelley, a sophomore, was second on the team in scoring at 12.1 per contest.
The UL-Monroe Warhawks and South Alabama Jaguars tied with 46 points apiece. The Warhawks return all five of their starters from last year's squad that finished 10-21 overall and 7-13 in the SBC. Ashleigh Simmons, a Preseason Second Team selection, and Alexar Tuglar, a Preseason Third Team selection, return for their senior seasons in 2013-14.
USA returns just one starter from its 17-win season a year ago, in Ronneka Robertson, a Preseason Second Team selection. The Jags will begin the 2013-14 season under the helm of head coach Terry Fowler who was hired this past spring.
UL-Lafayette was picked to finished seventh in the league. Second-year head coach Garry Brodhead and his Ragin' Cajuns return all five starters from last year's team including, Keke Veal, a Preseason Second Team selection. After a 10-win season in 2012-13, 87 percent of the teams scoring and 91 percent of its rebounding return.
Rounding out the preseason coaches' poll are the three league newcomers - Georgia State, Texas State and UT Arlington. GSU, a 13-win team a season ago, returns four starters in 2013-14 including the school record holder for three-point shots made, Kendra Long.
The 2013-14 season gets underway on Friday, Nov. 8 with six SBC teams scheduled to tip-off. This season the conference schedule will feature an 18-game, double round-robin slate culminating with the conference championship set for March 12-15 at the New Orleans Lakefront Arena. Eight of the 10 league teams will qualify for the tournament with the tournament champion advancing to the NCAA tournament.