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MEAC Preseason Awards: A duo from Morgan State leads the way

Tiwian Kendley and Phillip Carr might be the two best players in the MEAC, and they both play for the Bears.

NCAA Basketball: Norfolk State at Vanderbilt Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Six players who made either the first- or second-team in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference a year ago have graduated.

Maryland Eastern Shore, Savannah State, and Norfolk State each lost their leading scorers, while NC Central lost two key contributors to a team that advanced to the NCAA Tournament.

A few big names remain in the MEAC, however. Some made their names last year as freshmen, others as transfers, and more will rise up this year.

But as it stands now, Morgan State looks like the team to beat as it returns the conference’s leading scorer and Defensive Player of the Year in Tiwian Kendley and Phillip Carr, the only first-teamers left over from last year.

Here’s a rundown of the best players in the MEAC, entering the 2017-18 season:

First Team

Tiwian Kendley, Morgan State - Player of the Year

Kendley led the MEAC in scoring last season with 21 points per-game, and is in a good position to keep the league’s scoring crown this year. At 6’5, he’s a versatile wing who can score inside and out, bang with bigs for rebounds, and can draw fouls and make teams pay at the charity stripe. He scored 20 points or more in 13 games last season, including a monster 40-point outing in a double-overtime win against Manhattan.

Phillip Carr, Morgan State

Carr is the best returning big man in the MEAC this year and a big reason why many are picking the Bears to make the NCAA Tournament. He led the MEAC in rebounding, notched 11 double-doubles, and averaged 16.6 points per game last season.

Zaynah Robinson, Norfolk State

At 5’11, Robinson might not look like much, but he was a key member of the Norfolk State team that reached the MEAC final and the CIT a season ago. He averaged 13.5 points, 3.4 rebounds and 4.5 assists in 2016-17. He may be asked to score more this year after Jonathan Wade‘s graduation, and he’s capable of that, as he scored 20 or more points in eight games last season, including 21 against Mississippi State.

Dexter McClanahan, Savannah State

The Tigers are banned from postseason play because of a low APR score, but McClanahan is a good enough for MEAC fans to watch them. The 6’5 junior averaged 16.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game last season on his way to earning All-MEAC Third Team honors. Savannah State was one of the fastest teams in the nation last year, and McClanahan will lead that charge.

Charles Williams, Howard

The MEAC’s reigning Rookie of the Year stepped in for an injured James Daniel last season and played strong, leading Howard and all MEAC rookies in scoring with 15.6 points per game. He scored more than 20 points in 11 games last year, including outings against Maryland, VCU, and George Washington.

Second Team

Jermaine Marrow, Hampton

Marrow impressed mightily as a freshman, and may already be one of the MEAC’s best guards. He posted 15.6 points, 3.0 assists and 3.2 rebounds per game last season. He showed an ability to score in bunches too, posting 27 against William & Mary and 31 against Florida A&M last season.

Brandon Tabb, Bethune Cookman

After making the All-MEAC Second Team a season ago, Tabb is primed for an even better senior season. He scored 17.5 points per game, and showed he could rebound from the guard position by grabbing 5.4 per game. He shot 35 percent from outside, a number new head coach Ryan Ridder would like to see increase.

Dejuan Clayton, Coppin State

Clayton is one of just two returning starters for new head coach Juan Dixon. As a freshman, he scored 12.4 points per game while also dishing out 3.1 assists. He made the All-MEAC Rookie Team, proved to be unselfish, and was a bright spot for a Coppin team that won just eight games a season ago.

Ryan Andino, Maryland Eastern Shore

The 6’2 guard was the Hawks’ second-leading scorer last year with 13 points per game. He’s proven to be one of the MEAC’s most lethal heat-check threats as a guy that can heat up in a hurry and swish a bunch of threes. He nailed 121 a season ago, and connected on seven-or-more in four contests.

Kavon Waller, Delaware State

As a junior, Waller was third for the Hornets in scoring and shot 42 percent from behind the arc. After Delaware State lost Devin Morgan and DeVaughn Mallory — both double-digit scorers last season — to transfer, Waller may be asked to carry the offense as a senior. Last season, he helped the Hornets upset St. John’s by scoring 15 points and grabbing six rebounds.

Newcomers to Watch:

RJ Cole, Howard

Cole was a three-star recruit coming out of St. Anthony in New Jersey, and picked Howard over Bucknell, Georgetown, Penn and several other mid-majors. He also received interest from Virginia. Cole is easily Howard’s most prominent signing since it picked up James Daniel.

Reggie Gardner, NC Central

Gardner comes to LeVelle’s Moton squad as a freshman, but spent last year in prep school at Loomis Chaffee. Before that, the 6’3 guard played at DeMatha Catholic High School, alongside No. 1 overall NBA pick Markelle Fultz.

Dominique Reid, NC Central

After spending time at Niagara and Polk State, the 6’6 forward has landed at NC Central and should help the team immediately with inside scoring and rebounding. At Niagara, he was second on the team in rebounding as a redshirt freshman with 5.9 per game, and averaged 8.2 rebounds 14.4 points per game at Polk State.

LaPri McCray-Pace, Morgan State

A big guard, McCray-Pace can play the two or the three, and showed off his skills on high school courts in Philadelphia. The 6’4 wing likes to get in the paint and finish at the rim, but can hit a deep open jumper too. Lindy’s Sports tabbed him as the MEAC’s newcomer of the year.

Kyson Rawls, Morgan State

Rawls was the Gatorade high school player of the year in Delaware last year after averaging 21.5 points, 5.5 assists, 4.6 rebounds and two steals per game for St. Georges. He could be a key rotation player in the backcourt for the Bears this season.

Ty’Lik Evans, Savannah State

The 5’7 guard comes to Savannah from Georgia Highlands College, where he led the team to a 32-2 record. He was named the 2017 Georgia Junior College Defensive Player of the Year and led JuCo players across the nation with 4.8 steals per game. He also averaged about 13 points and six assists per game.