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ASUN Preseason Awards: Expect Garrison Mathews to have a big year

Garrison Mathews is your preseason ASUN player of the year.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-North Carolina vs Lipscomb Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Just one Lipscomb player has walked away with an ASUN Player of the Year award: Adnan Hodzic in 2010. We expect that number to double, with plenty of additional Bisons flavor on the first and second teams. Here’s how we see the individual hardware shaking out in 2018-19.

Player of the Year: Garrison Mathews, Sr., G, Lipscomb

Garrison Mathews is clearly the most accomplished offensive player in the ASUN as we head into the regular season. He has averaged 20 or more points per game for two years in a row, and shows no sign of slowing down. Typically the Player of the Year award has gone to the best player on the ASUN’s best team, and this year that looks like Mathews and Lipscomb fit that description.

Defensive Player of the Year: Abdul Lewis, Sr., F, NJIT

Lewis has been a defensive force since transferring to NJIT his sophomore year. The 6’10” senior has averaged 8.7 and 8.8 rebounds per game, respectively, the past two seasons. With the departure of Anthony Tarke, the Highlanders are going to be relying on Lewis to make a lot of big plays this season. Look for his defensive excellence to continue in the 2018-19 season.

Newcomer of the Year: Haanif Cheatham, Sr., G, Florida Gulf Coast

Like many of FCGU’s best players in recent years, Cheatham comes to Fort Myers as a transfer. Through three years at Marquette, Cheatham started in 63 of 70 games for the Golden Eagles. He was a member of the Big East All-Freshman team after averaging 11.8 points per game in 2015-16 season. On top of that, he was honored with Marquette’s Best Defensive Player Award both his freshman and sophomore years. Expect him to make a big impact at FGCU.

First Team All-Conference

JD Notae, So., G, Jacksonville

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

Notae was the one of the best players on last year’s Dolphins team, and it was just his freshman year. He averaged 15.4 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game before missing the final five contests of the season with an injury. He was the ASUN Freshman of the Year, and his return to the floor this year is likely to be even more impressive as he steps into a leadership role for the Dolphins.

Garrison Mathews, Sr., G, Lipscomb

See above.

Rob Marberry, Sr., F/C, Lipscomb

Lipscomb’s big man plays like he’s 6’11” when he’s really only 6’7.” Despite the height disadvantage that Marberry faces nearly every game when he plays in the post, he has been able to put up big numbers on a consistent basis. Two breakout performances last year were against USC Upstate, when he scored 38 points and grabbed 9 rebounds, and Kennesaw State, where he had 32 points and 11 rebounds. Marberry is likely to have even more games like those in his senior year.

Garrett Sams, Jr., F, North Florida

Sams took a step forward last year after having a strong freshman season. He averaged 12.7 points and 4.3 rebounds per game as a sophomore, and his play really picked up near the tail end of the season, highlighted by a 28-point, seven-rebound game against NJIT in the ASUN quarterfinals. This was enough to get him named to the all-tournament team, and the late hot streak that Sams went on last Spring should continue into this Fall.

Abdul Lewis, Sr., F, NJIT

See above.

Second Team All-Conference

Kenny Cooper, Jr., G, Lipscomb

NCAA Basketball: Lipscomb at Tennessee Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports

Cooper’s immense value to the Bisons can be seen just by watching the second half of last year’s ASUN conference championship game. Cooper ran into foul trouble when his team had a huge lead, and had to spend some time on the bench. Suddenly, Lipscomb’s offense fell apart without Cooper at the helm. A 32-point lead at FGCU got narrowed down all the way to five. Cooper’s 10.1 points and 3.9 assists per game were key for the Bisons’ success a year ago, and he’ll be relied upon to run their offense again this season.

Jace Hogan, Sr., F, Jacksonville

In his first year as a transfer, Hogan took a huge step forward from how he played at Navy his freshman and sophomore seasons. He averaged a more-than solid 17.1 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game a year ago. Last season, he and JD Notae showed how strong of a one-two punch they can be, and this year they will be one of the top duos in the ASUN.

RaySean Scott Jr., Jr., F, Florida Gulf Coast

Many of the key players from last year’s FGCU team are gone. The Eagles still do have a lot of talent on their roster, and Scott highlights this depth. After not getting much playing time a year ago, Scott will likely be one of the focal points of new head coach Michael Fly’s offensive gameplan. Look for him to lead the Eagles in scoring this year, and have a strong defensive campaign as well.

Noah Horchler, Jr., F, North Florida

Horchler’s 11.7 points and 8.6 rebounds per game were enough to earn him a spot on the ASUN All-Freshman team a year ago. This year he very well could end up averaging a double-double in the category of points and rebounds. In the high-scoring, up-tempo offense that head coach Matthew Driscoll runs at UNF, Horchler’s production is bound to see an increase this year.

Scottie James, Jr., F, Liberty

Coming from the Big South, it’ll be tough to predict how any/all of Liberty’s players will adjust to the competition in the ASUN. However, one thing is for sure: Scottie James will be a force down low. He averaged 13.5 points and 8.9 rebounds per game in his first year at Liberty after transferring from Bradley, and will be the Flames’ go-to player offensively this season.