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Southern Conference season preview: Devin Sibley is a player to watch, and not just in the SoCon

Sibley will lead the conference favorite Furman Paladins.

NCAA Basketball: Furman at Connecticut David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Furman enters the 2017-18 season as the team to beat in the Southern Conference, and with the best overall player in the league — as well as maybe the best newcomer — it’s easy to see why.

Marksman Devin Sibley and backcourt mates John Davis III and Daniel Fowler each make our SoCon preseason first or second teams, giving the Paladins the best guard play in the conference.

But don’t count out Wofford either, which boasts two first-teamers in Fletcher Magee and Cameron Jackson. The Terriers have the firepower to win this league as well.

Our complete preseason SoCon awards can be found below:

Player of the Year: Devin Sibley (Furman)

Newcomer of the Year: Clay Mounce (Furman)

Defensive Player of the Year: James Dickey (UNC Greensboro)

First Team:

Devin Sibley, Sr., G, Furman

Sibley should once again challenge for SoCon Player of the Year and enters the season as the best 2-guard in the conference. With his improvements on defense, he also might be one of the top players in mid-major basketball.

Preston Parks, So., G, The Citadel

The reigning SoCon Freshman of the Year came off the bench to lead The Citadel in scoring last season. Parks’ 18.1 points per game also ranked third in the Southern Conference, and his two steals per contest were a league best. His 77 made threes were fifth in the conference.

Francis Alonso, Jr., G, UNC Greensboro

In Alonso, the Spartans have one of the best pure shooters in the league. He enters his junior campaign coming off a season in which he connected on a blistering 46.2 percent of his threes — a league high.

Fletcher Magee, Jr., G, Wofford

Magee was a first-team All-SoCon selection last season and completed the campaign ranking third in the SoCon in scoring, while also leading the league in three-pointers made, with 112.

Cameron Jackson, Jr., F, Wofford

At times last season, Jackson looked like the top big man in the Southern Conference. The 6’8 junior forward finished the season ranked third overall in the league in field goal percentage (58.8).

Second Team:

John Davis III, Sr., G, Furman

Davis has shown steady improvement in all three years at Furman so far, with his point and assist numbers increasing each season. He’ll team up with Sibley at guard to form one of the best backcourts at the mid-major level.

Ria’n Holland, Sr., G, Mercer

Holland can freeze defenders with his quickness and might be one of the quickest guards in all of mid-major basketball. He connected on a team-best 76 triples last season

Demetrius Denzel-Dyson, Sr., G, Samford

Denzel-Dyson led the Bulldogs with 86 triples last season, connecting on 46 percent of his threes. The transfer from UMass had an outstanding inaugural season for Samford, garnering all-league honors last season. He led the Bulldogs in scoring average and had a 40-point effort in a win over Nicholls State.

Daniel Fowler, Sr., G, Furman

Fowler is probably one of the most underrated guards in the Southern Conference, and might be one of mid-major basketball’s top on-ball defenders.

Wyatt Walker, Jr., F/C, Samford

Walker, who was an all-league selection last season, comes off an outstanding 2016-17 campaign in which he led the conference in rebounding (9.7 per game) and ranked fourth in the league in field goal percentage (58.6).

Third Team:

Desonta Bradford, Sr., G, East Tennessee State

The 6’4 senior has great athleticism and is solid on defense. He will be one of the veteran leaders for the Bucs this season, and if ETSU is going to be a factor in the Southern Conference race in 2017-18, it will have to be Bradford who leads the way. He led the team with 131 assists last season.

Christen Cunningham, Sr., G, Samford

Cunningham is a great compliment to Denzel-Dyson as one of the top distributing guards in the SoCon. Cunningham’s 225 helpers ranked him second only behind Wofford’s Eric Garcia last season. He has ranked in the top five in the conference in assists each of his previous three seasons at Samford.

Haboubacar Mutombo, Sr., G, Western Carolina

Talk about taking a leap from your sophomore to junior year. Mutombo went from a 16 minute-per-game role player to a double-digit-scoring 32-minute-playing starter last year.

James Dickey, So., F, UNC Greensboro

With his leaping ability and rebounding prowess, Dickey will likely be one of the best rim protectors in the SoCon in 2017-18. He saw action in 33 games with 10 starts last season as a redshirt freshman, garnering SoCon All-Freshman Team accolades. Dickey paced the Spartans with 43 blocked shots, while connecting on a solid 53.6 percent from the field.

Zane Najdawi, Jr., F, The Citadel

Najdawi will lead the way in the middle for The Citadel. The 6’7 forward was among the SoCon’s top rim protectors last season, ranking fourth in the league in blocks (38 blocks/1.2 per game) and was efficient on offense, converting shots at a 47 percent clip.


Best Shooter: Francis Alonso (UNC Greensboro)

Best Scorer: Devin Sibley (Furman)

Best Dunker: Clay Mounce (Furman)

Best Shot-Blocker: James Dickey (UNC Greensboro)

Best Rebounder: Wyatt Walker (Samford)

Most Efficient in the Paint: Cameron Jackson (Wofford)

Quickest Guard: Ria’n Holland (Mercer)

Most Underrated Player: Daniel Fowler (Furman)