JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Carson-Newman men's basketball program began practice Tuesday evening in Holt Fieldhouse with heightened expectations for the 2013-14 season. Carson-Newman has been ranked No. 21 in D2 Bulletin's preseason poll.
The Eagles won 20 games last year, the first 20-win season in a decade, before bowing out in the semifinals of the South Atlantic Conference tournament. The Eagles return 71 percent of their scoring from a year ago, including four starters and seven letter winners. C-N also brings back 77 percent of its made three pointers from a year ago, including a school record 99 from Sanders.
The SAC's player of the year, Davis led the South Atlantic Conference in scoring (18.7 points per game) and made field goals (184). He had 506 points in 27 games, a starter in all of them, and enters 2013 seven points away from joining the 1,000-point club at Carson-Newman.
As a junior, he scored double figures in 20 consecutive contests, and if not for a game at Hiwassee in which he injured his foot and only played five minutes and scored three points, that string of games would be 29 and include every game of the season.
He has torched two opponents for 30 points. He went for a career best 36 against Queens (12/18). He hit a career high 13 field goals and a career high eight threes in that game. At Newberry (2/21), Davis crested 30 again, this time scoring 31 on 10-for-18 shooting. In that game he set a career mark for made free throws with eight. He scored double figures in 27 games this year, 20 points in 12 and has had at least five rebounds in 22 of them. A two-time South Atlantic Conference Player of the Week award winner, Davis became the first C-N player since 2003-2004 with multiple 30-point games in a single season.
Sanders was a first team All-SAC selection a year ago. The sharp-shooting guard finished second in the conference in scoring this season at 18.7 points per game and made 3.7 three-pointers per game, the second-most in the nation.
He finished the year with 520 points, which topped Antoine Davis by 14 points. A SAC Player of the Week award winner, Sanders turned in four consecutive 25-point performances, the longest such streak at Carson-Newman this century.
He was one of three SAC players with consecutive 25-point performances, but the only player who went beyond two. Sanders set a season high with 33 points in a home win against then league-leading Anderson (2/23).
The shooting guard went 11-for-22 from the field and 9-for-18 from three in that game. It was the fourth most threes in a single game in SAC history. In that contest, Sanders set Carson-Newman's single season record for three pointers made - the previous record was 86, Sanders stands at 99 - which ranks fourth in the all-time SAC annals.
Johnson was one of three players on the team to play in all 28 games in 2012-13. He made 21 starts and averaged 5.5 points per game and 2.5 boards a game. Carson-Newman's leader in assists with 95, Johnson's 1.6:1 assist to turnover ratio was second on the team and eighth in the SAC (second among point guards). He had five games with more than 10 points, three with more than five rebounds and eight with five or more assists. Hit his season high for points with 17 in a home victory over Newberry (1/12). Johnson made a career high nine-of-10 free throws in that game as well.
Brooks played in all 28 games a year ago for the Eagles. He finished sixth on the team in scoring with 7.2 points per game. He also averaged 2.7 boards. Brooks turned in his best performance in an overtime win at Brevard (1/30) with 18 points on seven-for-11 shooting. In that game he set career highs for free throws made and attempted (4-7), rebounds (eight, with two offensive and six defensive), assists (one) and blocks (two). Had nine games in double figure scoring.
Josh Rogers, Ray Likely, Brandon Kelley and Kevin Leatherwood round out the Eagles' returning letterwinners. Andy Barnett redshirted last year and could make an impact on the Eagles rotation at positions one through three.
Coaches expect impact performances from Sawyer Williams – a freshman transfer from Morehead State – as well as from Jay Lane and Toledo Central Catholic High School's CJ Bussey. Those two guards will attempt to fill the minutes vacated by Marcellous Perez.
Reid Burke – a 6-8, 215-pound juco transfer from Volunteer State – should factor into the Eagles equation as well in C-N's at times position-less offense.
Carson-Newman's theme under fourth-year head coach Chuck Benson is to give more than expected. That mantra has been a constant for Benson's Bunch since the Carson-Newman graduate returned to Mossy Creek to be the Eagles' head coach in 2010.
The Eagles open their season Nov. 15 against NCAA tournament participant Barton.