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SWAC preseason awards: A clean slate and a rush to fill the void

Last year’s All-SWAC First Team is gone. Here’s who will step in.

NCAA Basketball: Jackson State at Baylor Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

While history tends to repeat itself in some ways — take, for example, Texas Southern, who is once again the clear favorite to win the SWAC — the world of college basketball as a whole is ever-changing. Just look at last year’s All-SWAC First Team. Not a single player remains for 2017-18.

That means the three returning members of the second-team — Reginal Johnson of Alcorn State, Texas Southern’s Kevin Scott, and Jared Sam at Southern — will be in the mix for first-team and Player of the Year honors.

Here are our complete projections for the 2017-18 SWAC awards. Compare them to the league’s picks, which were announced Thursday during the SWAC’s annual media teleconference.

Player of the Year—Reginal Johnson, Sr., Alcorn State

This year, a number of players could fit the bill for the preseason top performer. Yet Johnson has shown his dominance in the SWAC for years now. 15.6 points per game in the low post led him to be named HBCU All-American last year. He is a willing rebounder with a tremendous upside.

Defensive Player of the Year—Treshawn Bolden, Sr., Jackson State

When it comes to defense, individual numbers don’t usually tell the story for a specialist. As is the case with Bolden, who missed the majority of last year with an injury, but will be a key factor in Jackson State’s realistic attempt to get back to the NCAA Tournament.

Newcomer of the Year—Donté Clark, Gr-Sr., Texas Southern

The UMass transfer posted solid numbers in the Atlantic 10 last year (12.56 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.9 apg) and should make an immediate impact in the SWAC. The former three-star recruit struggled to close the season, but had spurts of excellence for the Minutemen, including a 30-point game against Rhode Island, an NCAA Tournament team. He will be a delight for coach Mike Davis and a nightmare for opposing defenses.

First Team

Reginal Johnson, F, Sr., Alcorn State

See above.

Jared Sam, Sr., Southern

Sam controls the paint for the Jaguars and he has the potential to put up similar numbers to Johnson, provided he can execute consistently. If so, Sam gives Southern a nice combination to keep teams off balance. He made nearly 60 percent of his buckets, giving him an average of 13.6 points per game. He is hard to keep off the glass as well, with 7.4 boards a game. He is a physical player who gets to the free throw line consistently.

Kevin Scott, F, Sr., Texas Southern

With all the new pieces in place and the early success of teammate Demontrae Jefferson, don’t be so quick to overlook Scott. He is a seasoned vet who knows how to find his game within the system to be most effective. He averaged 10 points and five rebounds while being the best three-point shooter on the roster.

Donté Clark, G, Gr. Sr., Texas Southern

See above.

Paris Collins, G, Jr., Jackson State

Collins is the heart that will keep the Tigers in many ball games. With an improvement in his perimeter shooting, he expands what Jackson State can do offensively. He is an excellent rebounding guard at 6’4 and can get to the basket and finish in traffic.

Second Team

Demontrae Jefferson, G, So., Texas Southern

The sizzling sophomore has an extensive offensive range. As a freshman, he finished second on the team and led all freshmen in the conference in scoring at 14.8 points per game. He is also unselfish and finished fourth in the SWAC in assists.

Zachary Hamilton, G, Sr., Prairie View

Hamilton is a coach’s player. Every year, his numbers have improved, and it’s due to his work ethic and understanding of the game. He is cerebral — what I call a true student of the game — which helped him finish in the top five in SWAC scoring at 15.1 per game. He also had his point production increase in tournament play.

Rodney Simeon, Alabama State

For Simeon, his double-figure scoring output has nothing to do with talent. It’s more about being consistent and his shot selection. He must bring his field goal percentage up to the mid-40s and continue to attack the boards. Once he brings it every night on both ends of the floor, Alabama State will be in good hands.

Chris Thomas, SF, R-Sr., Southern

Thomas is one of a trio of seniors returning for the Jaguars that will look to spearhead the journey. Thomas can play multiple positions, insert the mid-range game, and use his frame to defend on the wing or in the post. He could be a sneaky improvement from last year that allows Southern the depth to take the conference title.

Treshawn Bolden, C, Sr., Jackson State

See above.