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McDonald named Horizon Preseason Player of the Year, Norse picked to finish second

Northern Kentucky's Drew McDonald pauses after a first-round game against Kentucky in the men's NCAA college basketball tournament Saturday, March 18, 2017, in Indianapolis. Kentucky won 79-70. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. (WKRC) - Coming off of a sensational sophomore campaign during the 2016-17 season, Northern Kentucky junior forward Drew McDonald was named the Horizon League Preseason Player of the Year ahead of the 2017-18 campaign the league office announced Friday. The honor is one of three highlights for the Norse announced in Friday’s release.

The league’s coaches, athletic communications directors and media representatives have taken notice of NKU, which returns 77 percent of its offense from a team that went 24-11 last season, including a 12-6 mark in league play that resulted in a share of third place, and won the Horizon League Tournament Championship en route to its first NCAA Division I Tournament appearance. As a result, NKU was selected to finish second, collecting 10 first-place votes and finishing a mere 39 votes behind preseason favorite Oakland, last year’s regular-season champion.

After earning first team all-league, all-tourney and all-academic team status last year, McDonald leads a trio of double-figure scoring Norse that return for this season. The Cold Spring, Kentucky (Newport Central Catholic), native averaged 16.4 points and 7.7 rebounds per game.

Lavone Holland II (Louisville, Ky./Ballard), Northern Kentucky’s second leading scorer at 14.5 ppg a year ago, ended last season on an absolute tear. He was named to the preseason all-league second team due to those efforts.

In the last seven games of the 2016-17 season, Holland averaged 19 points and 5.6 assists per game. He highlighted the Horizon League all-tournament team as the MVP in guiding NKU to the tourney championship before wrapping up the season with a game-high 22 points against in-state rival Kentucky in the NCAA tournament.

This marks Northern Kentucky’s third year in the Horizon League and, in each of the previous two seasons the Norse exceeded the preseason prognostications. John Brannen, the 2017 Horizon League Coach of the Year, led NKU to a share of third place last year after being picked to finish seventh. The year before, the Norse were predicted to come in 10th, but finished seventh.

Also returning to the fold for the Norse this year is Carson Williams (Owenton, Ky./Owen County), an all-freshman team honoree a year ago and NKU’s third double-figure scorer (10.8 ppg), as well as Jordan Garnett (Indianapolis, Ind./Warren Central), Mason Faulkner (Glasgow, Ky./Caverna), Dantez Walton (Lima, Ohio/Lima Central Catholic), Jalen Tate (Pickerington, Ohio/Pickerington North), Jeff Garrett (Gadsden, Ala./Alabama), Tre Cobbs (Lima, Ohio/Lima Central Catholic), and walk-on Nick Ayers (Independence, Ky./Simon Kenton).

Joining Northern Kentucky this season are freshman Chris Vogt (Mayfield, Ky./Graves County) and Paul Djoko (Strasbourg, France/Champagne Chalons Reims), as well as sophomore Tyler Sharpe (Mt. Washington, Ky./Louisville).

The Norse open their season on Nov. 10, when fellow 2017 NCAA Tournament participant East Tennessee State comes to BB&T Arena for a 7 p.m. tilt. Season tickets are on sale now. Visit www.NorseTickets.com or contact Micki Ford at (859) 572-7848 or fordm10@nku.edu for more information.

Preseason Poll

TEAM (1ST PLACE-VOTES) POINTS

  1. Oakland (31) 453
  2. Northern Kentucky (10) 414
  3. UIC (3) 347
  4. Detroit Mercy (1) 273
  5. Wright State 259
  6. Green Bay 249
  7. Youngstown State (1) 209
  8. Milwaukee (1) 161
  9. Cleveland State 125
  10. IUPUI 95

PRESEASON PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Drew McDonald, Northern Kentucky

FIRST TEAM NOTES

  • Drew McDonald, Northern Kentucky 16.9 ppg, 7.6 rebs
  • Jalen Hayes, Oakland 17.9 ppg, 9.2 rebs
  • Martez Walker, Oakland 17.8 ppg overall
  • Dikembe Dixson, UIC 20.3 ppg, 6 rebs (all gms.)
  • Cameron Morse, Youngstown State 23.2 ppg led HL

SECOND TEAM NOTES

  • Corey Allen, Detroit Mercy 15.4 ppg, 16-17 HL FOTY
  • Jaleel Hogan, Detroit Mercy 16.9 ppg, 6.9 rebs
  • Lavone Holland II, Northern Kentucky 14.5 ppg, 4.1 ast overall
  • Kendrick Nunn, Oakland 15.5 ppg at Illinois in 15-16
  • Tai Odiase, UIC 3.2 blks, 16-17 HL DPOTY

All stats are 16-17 Horizon League games only, unless noted.

Information courtesy NKU Athletics

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