The basketball coaches of the Mountain East Conference are very, very high on both the men’s and women’s teams at the University of Charleston. Both Golden Eagles squads were picked to finish second overall in the MEC this season in coaches polls released Friday morning.
Men’s basketball in Kanawha County earned respect across the board. West Virginia State’s men’s team was tied for fourth with Notre Dame College in Friday’s poll. The Yellow Jacket women were picked to finish seventh.
West Liberty’s men and Glenville State’s women were picked to win the 12-team conference. The Hilltopper men got nine of the 12 first-place votes, with UC getting two and Fairmont State getting one. The Glenville State women got 11 first-place votes with UC taking the other.
UC’s men finished last season at 20-9, their first 20-win finish since 2014. Key components to last season’s success return, including a trio of players who earned All-MEC honors. Leading scorer Drew Rackley was named to the first team, Lamont McManus was named to the second team and Devon Robinson earned honorable mention.
That experience is key, considering how young the rest of the roster is.
“Eleven of 15 on our roster are in the freshman or sophomore class,” UC coach Dwaine Osborne said to reporters at Friday’s MEC media day. “So we have a lot of new guys. We have nine freshmen out of our 15. We are young, but we do have some guys back with some minutes played.”
The Yellow Jackets, who finished last season at 12-17, hope to start this season better than they ended last season. WVSU lost its last seven games, including an MEC tournament game to Notre Dame. Two of the team’s top three scorers are gone — No. 1 scorer Pat Johnson-Agwu and No. 3 Ernest Jenkins — but second-leading scorer Augustus Stone returns
The Yellow Jackets will get the services of former Capital standout and first-team Class AAA All-Stater Anthony Pittman. They’ll also have former UVa-Wise player Michal Seals, who averaged 16.8 points per game for the Cavaliers last season.
The Golden Eagle women finished last season at 25-7 and reached the MEC title game, where they lost to Glenville State. They earned an NCAA Atlantic Regional berth, but fell in the first game to California University of Pennsylvania.
Leading scorer Raziyah Farrington is gone, but UC returns All-MEC first-team post player Anna Hayton and Brooklyn Panell, the second- and third-leading scorers, respectively, on last year’s team. Those two are among the five returning players on the 2019-20 roster.
“I’m really excited about our team,” UC coach Becky Burke said. “You’re not going to recognize a ton of the faces you see this year for us. Those five returners come hungry every day and motivated.”
The Yellow Jacket women finished last season at 8-22 but were able to get into the MEC tournament and climb out of the first round, falling to Glenville State in the quarterfinals. Charity Shears is the leading returning scorer at 11.4 points per game.