Appalachian State University men’s basketball will open up its official preseason practices on Sunday, Oct. 2. The Mountaineers are coming off of a summer full of progress both on the court and in the weight room.
Two months ago the Black and Gold embarked on an overseas trip to the countries of Slovenia and Italy for a preseason trip to bond as a team and play against professional competition. It allowed the team to bond and play games with each other in preparation for the season.
The trip ended up being a world class experience for the players, coaches and staff with the Mountaineers experiencing many different cultures and playing against top-tier European competition in the process.
Leading the returning players in the backcourt is sophomore combo-guard Ronshad Shabazz (Raleigh, N.C./Huntington Prep W.V.)). Last season, Shabazz averaged 11.9 points per game – the highest total by a Mountaineer freshman since Ricky Nedd in the 1990-91 campaign.
Shabazz tallied six 20-point performances, including a career-high 29 points in a 101-100 loss to Georgia Southern on Jan. 25.
Emarius Logan (Columbia, S.C./White Knoll) also returns for his sophomore season after averaging 5.7 points per game, which included eight double-digit scoring outputs. Of those eight, Logan posted four-straight double-digit scoring games from Feb. 13 to Feb. 25, which included a career-high 17 points in a 78-74 win over Troy on Feb. 20.
Upperclassmen Matt O’Boyle (Peoria, Ariz./Sunrise Mountain/Pima Community College) and Jake Babic (Oakville, Ontario/The Kiski School) are back for their senior and junior seasons, respectively.
In 2015-16, O’Boyle’s first season in Boone, he netted 3.0 points and 2.2 rebounds per game. Babic scored 2.0 points and collected 1.4 rebounds per game.
Kevin Kerley (Loveland, Ohio/Archbishop Moeller) and Trey Ford (Mooresville, N.C./Lake Norman) also come back for their sophomore seasons. Redshirt junior forward/guard Craig Hinton (Winston-Salem, N.C./East Forsyth/VMI) will begin his first season as a Mountaineer after sitting out all of last year due to NCAA transfer rules after coming to the High Country from VMI.
More size and more experience describes the Mountaineer front court coming into the season. Returning starters Tyrell Johnson (Atlanta, Ga./Stephenson) and Griffin Kinney (Delaware, Ohio/Fork Union Military Academy) will again solidify the post for the Black and Gold.
Johnson who has undergone a big transition in the weight room over the summer will enter camp much stronger than a year ago. Last season, Johnson averaged 3.9 points and 4.1 rebounds per game, including a career-high 11 points on two occasions.
Kinney returns for his third year in the program and finished last season on a high note with a career-high 18 points against Arkansas State. Kinney averaged 6.3 points and 4.7 rebounds for the Apps last year.
Also returning is sophomore Bennett Holley (Roanoke, Va./North Cross). Last year, Holley came exclusively off the bench for the Mountaineers and provided 3.0 points and 1.1 rebounds per game – shooting nearly 40.0 percent from three-point land.
Jake Wilson (Raleigh, N.C./Millbrook/Lenoir-Rhyne), like Hinton, will play his first season for Appalachian State after transferring from Lenoir-Rhyne.
Head coach Jim Fox and his staff brought in four freshmen for the upcoming season. Patrick Good (Johnson City, Tenn./David Crockett), Isaac Johnson (Charlotte, N.C./Providence Day), Kelvin Robinson (Little Rock, Ark./Episcopal) and Zach Cottrell (Hayesville, N.C./Hayesville).
Transfer guard Nick Hough (Harrisburg, N.C./Hickory Ridge/Belmont Abbey) will sit out the 2016-17 season after transferring from Belmont Abbey.
The Mountaineers will have roughly a little over a month until its first competition with an exhibition against Methodist University on Tuesday, Nov. 8 inside the Holmes Center.