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MEAC Preseason Awards: RJ Cole is primed for a huge year

It’s a Cole world, and the MEAC is just living in it

NCAA Basketball: Howard at Georgetown Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

MEAC household names like Tiwian Kendley, Brandon Tabb and others are now gone. Hampton is gone from the conference, and Savannah State is doing the same after this year. With a lot of change coming within the conference structure and on the court, this MEAC season will be an interesting one to follow.

Here are our MEAC Preseason Awards!

Player of the Year: RJ Cole, Howard, Sophomore Guard

Do you want to know how good RJ Cole is?

He ranked 7th in scoring last season with 23.7 ppg...in the whole nation. What makes it even more impressive? He did that as a freshman. Cole started all 33 games for Howard and made his name known. That’s hard to repeat that for most, but he will most likely do it again. As Howard fights for a better finish in the MEAC this season, Cole will once again dominate.

What’s dangerous about Cole is his three-point shooting. Last season he ranked within the Top 15 in the nation in 3 pointers made. His 109 makes and 304 attempts are absurdly high and dangerous for opposing defenses. His numbers were in the same ballpark as Trae Young last year. Cole took just 15 fewer attempts and trailed by only five makes than Young, who wound up being a lottery pick in the NBA Draft.

Cole’s stock will be high this season. His smooth handles and calculated plays are worth the attention that he will garner. In the MEAC, it’s a Cole world and everyone is just living in it.

Newcomer of the Year: Terry Harris, NC A&T, Senior Guard

After North Carolina A&T shocked the MEAC, they lost a few players in the process. It’s just the life of a mid-major; things get hot and players search for a new opportunity. But A&T reloaded and added a former 3-Star recruit.

Terry Harris is taking his talents from Eastern Michigan to North Carolina A&T this season and looking to make a splash. His 6’6 frame will add more height to an already tall team down in Greensboro. He has the experience from EMU and Houston Baptist before that, and the possibility of more play time will surely make Harris a player to watch.

Dark Horse Team of the Year: Norfolk State Spartans

In a conference with more possible winners than actually dark horses, our dark horse will be a team that has major potential but is rarely included the first few teams mentioned in the conversation of MEAC dominance. Hidden in the crowded MEAC standings last season was NSU, who went 11-5 in conference play.

The reason why NSU is dark horse is really within the historical context. NSU has won over 10 conference games a season since 2011, but the Spartans have only had 1 NCAA Tournament berth (2012). Robert Jones has been among the best in the conference since taking over in 2013. The lack of MEAC titles overshadows the Spartans success this decade. That might end as NSU looks to return back to the top of the MEAC.

First Team

Isaiah Bailey: Bethune-Cookman, Senior Guard

Soufiyane Diakite: Bethune-Cookman, Senior Center

RJ Cole: Howard, Sophomore, Guard

Charles Williams: Howard, Junior, Guard

Raasean Davis: NC Central, Junior, Center

The tides are turning within the MEAC for sure. With top stars graduating or transferring, there’s going to be a few new stars emerging. But these five players are returning and ready to continue their impact.

Isaiah Bailey played in the shadow of Brandon Tabb last season as Tabb led BCU to an amazing season. With Tabb gone, Bailey is looking to step up. His ability to spread the ball and change situations with his free throw shooting will be a plus offensively. His teammate Soufiyane Diakite will be continuing his dominance from last season. He led the MEAC with 313 rebounds, also 3rd with 11 double-doubles. His all-around play and aggressive defense led to him being named Defensive Player of the Year last season.

The Bailey and Diakite duo will be lethal but another duo will have something to say about that. Charles Williams and RJ Cole from Howard are two-star caliber players on the same team. Cole and Williams ranked No. 1 & 2 last season in scoring as both players carried Howard through a tough conference slate. With a better team around them, expect nothing different from the two.

Raasean Davis from NCCU averaged 15.1 points and 8.1 rebounds last season, which led to 2nd team All-MEAC honors. Davis’ efficient offensive play will be hard to stop, especially with NCCU adding new players in the mix. Expect an increase in points this season.

Second Team

Kameron Langley: NC A&T, Sophomore Guard

Lamar Morgan: Coppin State, Senior Forward

Shawntrez Davis: Bethune Cookman, Junior Foward

Reggie Gardner Jr.: NC Central, Sophomore Guard

Martez Cameron: Morgan State, Senior Guard

This group of individuals are key components of their team and are ready to break out or continuing breaking out.

Let’s start with Martez Cameron. He averaged 8.6 PPG, 2.9 RPG and 1.5 SPG last season for Morgan State. It seems small, but he’s been a good teammate and role player as Phillip Carr and Tiwian Kendley were key components of the Morgan State basketball program the past few seasons. With some transfers and freshmen now in, this is Cameron’s year to step up.

Reggie Gardner Jr. from NC Central landed on the MEAC All-Rookie team with RJ Cole last season. The Freshman started all 35 games for NCCU and led the team in three-pointers and minutes in the process. He’ll be a top option for the Eagles alongside Raasean Davis.

Kameron Langley is poised for a breakout season for NCAT. The Aggies had a surprising season, which led to a few players transferring to better schools and more opportunities as well. Back in Greensboro, Langley is ready to take a bigger role as A&T looks to repeat their success from last season. In terms of success, Coppin State coach Juan Dixon is looking for it and Lamar Morgan is the key to it. He started all 31 games last season for the Eagles, leading the team in points.