The confidence that University of Charleston men’s basketball coach Dwaine Osborne and West Virginia State men’s coach Bryan Poore have in their respective teams is shared by the rest of the Mountain East Conference.
The league’s other coaches believe the Golden Eagles and Yellow Jackets will end the 2019-20 campaign in the MEC’s top four. The first step toward that goal for both teams begins Friday.
WVSU opens its season hosting the Earl Lloyd Classic and playing Elizabeth City State at 7 p.m. UC opens at Shepherd for the PSAC/MEC Conference Challenge, playing its former MEC-mate Rams at 7 p.m.
The MEC’s coaches picked the Golden Eagles, who finished last season at 20-7, to finish this season in second place in the conference. UC has a roster that backs up that prediction. Four players who started at least 23 games last season return for the Golden Eagles, including leading scorer Drew Rackley.
Rackley, who became an All-MEC first-teamer last season after transferring from UNC-Asheville, averaged 19.9 points and hit 78 3-pointers. He’s joined by Lamont McManus, who averaged 13.4 points to earn All-MEC second-team status; Devon Robinson, who earned All-MEC honorable mention after putting up 11.3 points and 9.2 rebounds per game; and guard Seth O’Neal, who averaged 8.9 points, 4.2 assists and 3.0 rebounds.
WVSU will be without Ernest Jenkins, who transferred to Division I Morgan State earlier this year, but will have a number of key players returning along with some new faces that have Poore pretty excited. Glen Abram, Frank Agyemang and Gus Stone all are back, though Stone and his scoring ability (15.9 points per game last season) will have to wait as he has been dealing with hip and ankle maladies this preseason.
The Yellow Jackets also have UVa-Wise transfer Michal Seals, a 1,000-point scorer in his Cavaliers career, and former Capital High Class AAA All-State first-teamer Anthony Pittman. Pittman was on the State roster last year as a partial qualifier, but he’ll on the court for the Yellow Jackets this year.
“We’re going to get back to pressing as much as we can,” Poore said, “which is more than we have in the last four, five, six years. I really think this group can play the style I like to play. I like our chemistry. I think it’s better than it has been in several years.”
West Virginia State will retire the number for former basketball standout Dave Hamilton before the Yellow Jackets’ 4 p.m. Saturday game against Livingstone College. Hamilton scored more than 2,000 career points for WVSU during his time there.
The UC and State women’s teams also will begin their respective seasons Friday. UC, which reached last season’s MEC title game and was picked to finish second in the conference this season, plays California University of Pennsylvania at 7:30 p.m. Friday at West Liberty. The Yellow Jackets, picked to finish seventh in the league, host Livingstone at 8 p.m. Friday.