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Trojan Men Tabbed Preseason Favorite In West Division By Sun Belt Coaches
Courtesy: UALR Sports Information
          Release: 10/23/2006
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Rashad Jones-Jennings (left) and Lekheythan Malone were both voted to the preseason All-Sun Belt Team by the league's coaches.
View larger Courtesy: Nelson Chenault

Rashad Jones-Jennings (left) and Lekheythan Malone were both voted to the preseason All-Sun Belt Team by the league's coaches.

LAFAYETTE, La. The UALR men’s basketball team has been picked to finish first in the Sun Belt Conference West Division according to the league’s preseason poll, which was voted on by the conference coaches and released Monday in Lafayette on the opening day of the Sun Belt Media Days.

 

In addition to the first-place prediction, the Trojans had two players named to the league’s preseason All-Conference squad, as senior Rashad Jones-Jennings was voted to the All-Sun Belt First Team, while sophomore Lekheythan Malone was named to the Third Team.

 

The Trojans have been an early season favorite for several media outlets so far this year, as Athlon, Street & Smith’s, CBS Sportsline, USA Today and Collegehoopsnet.com have all picked the Trojans to win the Sun Belt West Division.

 

“Unfortunately, there are no awards or trophies given out for preseason predictions. The only thing that carries any merit is what happens at the end of the year,” said UALR head coach Steve Shields. “I really like our work ethic and togetherness to this point. I feel like we have had excellent senior leadership from Rashad Jones-Jennings, Byron Ray and Lorenzo Razz.”

 

The Trojans received just three of a possible 13 first-place votes in the West Division, but edged New Orleans and North Texas as the preseason favorite with 73 total points. The Privateers led all teams with five first-place votes, while the Mean Green (four) and Denver (one) received the remaining votes. UNO and UNT tied for second place in the preseason poll with 70 total points, followed by Denver and Arkansas State in a tie for fourth place with 51 points.

 

“You can look at the way the voting went this year, and see that our league is wide open,” added Shields. “When you look at the first-place votes being spread out across a number of different teams, that just shows how balanced our league is.”

 

Jones-Jennings earned Third Team All-Sun Belt honors last season after averaging 12.2 points and 11.3 rebounds per game. The 6-8 forward ranked third nationally in rebounding last year, and is the nation’s top returning rebounder in 2006-07. He racked up 12 double-doubles in his first year at UALR and established a new Sun Belt record by grabbing 30 rebounds against UAPB on Dec. 13, 2005.

 

The Chattanooga, Tenn.-native scored in double figures 22 times last season and collected 10-or-more rebounds on 15 occasions. Street & Smith’s 2006-07 College Basketball Yearbook named Jones-Jennings the Sun Belt’s top player.

 

“Rashad has had an outstanding offseason. He is in the best shape of his career at UALR and I am really encouraged about the leadership he has provided this basketball team,” said Shields. “For Rashad to average a double-double in his first year with us was an incredible accomplishment. He is one of the hardest working players I have ever coached, and I am excited about his opportunity to build on last year’s success.”

 

Malone was named Sun Belt Freshman of the Year in 2005-06 after averaging 9.9 points and 3.8 rebounds per game, while shooting a team-best .808 from the foul line. The Dallas, Texas-native was one of three Trojans to appear in all 29 games last season (with 22 starts), and scored in double figures 17 times. He was also UALR’s leading scorer in its two top-25 contests last season, scoring 19 points against No. 13 Michigan State and 17 points at No. 11 Illinois.

 

“I think the biggest thing with Lekheythan is that he was able to play substantial minutes as a freshman and he continues to grow from a maturity standpoint everyday,” said Shields. “He brought so much enthusiasm and passion to our team last year, and we are excited about his progress this offseason.”

 

UALR hosts Ouachita Baptist at the Jack Stephens Center on Nov. 4 in what will be the team’s only exhibition game prior to its regular-season opener against Central Methodist on Nov. 10. For ticket information call (501) 565-UALR.

 

 

Preseason Men's Basketball Coaches Poll
First place votes in parenthesis

East Division

Points

1. Western Kentucky (9)

73

2. South Alabama (2)

60

3. Middle Tennessee

55

4. Troy 

41

5. Florida International

23

6. Florida Atlantic (1)

21

 

 

West Division

Points

1. UALR (3)  

73

T2. New Orleans (5)

70

T2. North Texas (4)

70

T4. Arkansas State

51

T4. Denver (1)

51

6. Louisiana-Lafayette

28

7. Louisiana-Monroe

21

Preseason Men's Basketball All-Conference Team

First Team
Rashad Jones-Jennings (UALR, Sr., F)
Isaac Wells (Arkansas State, Jr., F)
DaShawn Walker (Denver, Sr., G)
Kendrick Davis (North Texas, Sr., G)
Courtney Lee (Western Kentucky, Jr., G/F)

Second Team
Antonio Porch (Denver, Sr., F)
Adam Vogelsberg (Middle Tennessee, Sr., G)
Calvin Watson (North Texas, Sr., G)
Cedric Jackson (Troy, Sr., F)
Demetric Bennett (South Alabama, Jr., G)

Third Team
Lekheythan Malone (UALR, So., F)
Yual Banks (Arkansas State, Sr., G)
Alex Galindo (Florida International, So., F)
Johwen Villegas (Florida International, Sr., G)
Carlos Smith (South Alabama, Sr., G)

Preseason Player of the Year
Courtney Lee (Western Kentucky, Jr., G/F)

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