Longwood Basketball Earns High Honors in Big South Preseason Outlook – Longwood Athletics - Techy Hunters

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Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Longwood Basketball Earns High Honors in Big South Preseason Outlook – Longwood Athletics

Longwood Basketball Earns High Honors in Big South Preseason Outlook

Men’s Basketball / 10/20/2021 9:05:00 AM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The parallel climbs up the Big South leaderboard for Longwood men’s and women’s basketball programs have continued into the 2021-22 season, as evidenced by significant preseason recognitions by the Big South Conference unveiled at the league’s annual Big South Media Day at Bojangles Entertainment Complex.
 
Both Lancer teams received their highest-ever rankings in their respective Big South Preseason Coaches Poll, with the Longwood women earning the No. 3 spot in their 12-team field and the Longwood men coming in as the No. 2 team in the North Division in the league’s newly-aligned division format.
 
The women’s No. 3 prediction surpasses the program’s previous high of No. 6 earned in 2013-14 and 2020-21, while the men’s jump to No. 2 in the North Division is the program’s best spot since joining the league. 

Longwood was also represented on both Big South Preseason All-Conference teams, with women’s senior and reigning Big South Defensive Player of the Year Akila Smith joining junior and fellow All-Big South first-teamer Kyla McMakin on the preseason first team, and men’s sophomore and reigning Big South All-Freshman Team honoree Justin Hill earning a spot on the men’s second team.
 
Those preseason predictions come on the heels of dueling breakthrough seasons for the Lancers last season, during which men’s head coach Griff Aldrich led his squad to a league-record 10 Big South wins, a trip to the Big South semifinals, and an invitation to the College Basketball Invitational. Women’s head coach Rebecca Tillett, meanwhile, guided her squad to a program-record No. 3 Big South finish and 12 Big South wins, as well as a berth to the Women’s Basketball Invitational.
 
Both the Lancer men and women return a healthy core of veterans for 2021-22 while also welcoming impact recruiting classes that are the latest byproducts of a three-year climb to the upper tier of the Big South. In Aldrich’s three seasons at the helm, he has twice guided the men to College Basketball Invitational berths, twice set program records for Big South wins, and engineered back-to-back top-five league finishes. Tillett, meanwhile, has increased the program’s overall and Big South win total in each of her first three seasons and has mentored the league’s reigning leaders in scoring (McMakin), rebounding (Akila Smith), assists (Tra’Dayja Smith) and blocks (Akila Smith).
 
Last season, McMakin became the quickest player to score 1,000 points in team history, doing so in just 54 games while leading the Big South in scoring for a second straight season. The rising junior has been nearly unstoppable in her first two seasons in the league, tallying at least 20 points in 20 games while topping 30 three times. For her career, she has averaged 18.4 points per game, good for second all-time in program history behind only Longwood Hall-of-Famer Carmille Barnette. She is the best free-throw shooter in program history, knocking down shots from the charity stripe at a .837 clip, and she has hit more than 50 three’s in each of her two seasons in Longwood blue.
 
That success on the court has led to a haul of awards that are also program firsts for the Virginia Beach native. McMakin has twice been named an all-conference first team performer in the Big South as well as the Big South Freshman of the Year. In addition, she has been named to the VaSID First Team twice as one of the top players in the Commonwealth.
 
Smith, who has always been a dominant defender, stormed through her junior season as a potent two-way interior force for the Lancers. The rising senior averaged a double-double, shattered her own single-season blocks record while also setting the career and single game blocks records in the season. Her effort paved the way to being named both the Big South and VaSID Defensive Player of the Year after ranking in the top four nationally in both blocks per game (3.52, third) and total blocks (88, fourth).
 
In addition, Smith was also named to the All-Big South First Team and the Big South All-Tournament team. She averaged 15.7 points and 10.2 rebounds per game, and her 14 double-doubles led the Big South and ranked 16th nationally, and she snared the second triple-double in team history with a 14-point, 13-rebound, 11-block masterpiece on January 15 that also set the program and Big South record for blocks in a game.
 
Meanwhile, Hill is coming off a breakout debut on the men’s side where he emerged as one of the top newcomers in the Big South and one of Longwood’s second-leading freshman scorer of the Division I era. Finishing among the top three Big South freshmen in scoring (11.0), rebounding (4.2) and assists (3.1), Hill scored in double figures 14 times with two 20-point games as well as an 11-assist outburst in his fourth career game.
 
Both the Longwood men and women will open the 2021-22 season on Nov. 9 against Big Ten programs. The men tip off against last year’s top-10 powerhouse Iowa in Iowa City, while the women face reigning Big Ten champion Maryland in College Park, Md.
 
2021-22 Big South Men’s Basketball Preseason Poll and Awards
 
North Division
1. Campbell (148 points, 20 first-place votes)
2. Longwood (96 points)
3. North Carolina A&T (92, 3 first-place votes)
4. Radford (83, 3 first-place votes)
5. Hampton (70)
6. High Point (57)
 
South Division
1. Winthrop (152 points, 23 first-place votes)
2. UNC Asheville (131, 3 first-place votes)
3. Gardner-Webb (103)
4. Presbyterian (72)
5. Charleston Southern (47)
6. USC Upstate (41)
 
Overall Champion: Winthrop (16 votes) followed by Campbell (8) and North Carolina A&T (2)
 
Preseason All-Conference First Team
D.J. Burns Jr., Winthrop (Preseason Player of the Year)
John-Michael Wright, High Point
Cedric Henderson Jr., Campbell
Tajion Jones, UNC Asheville
Rayshon Harrison, Presbyterian
 
Preseason All-Conference Second Team
Kameron Langley, North Carolina A&T
Jordan Whitfield, Campbell
LJ Thorpe, UNC Asheville
Russell Dean, Hampton
Justin Hill, Longwood
 
2021-22 Big South Women’s Basketball Preseason Poll and Awards
1. High Point (143 points, 11 first-place votes)
2. Campbell (121)
3. Longwood (119)
4. North Carolina A&T (114, 1 first-place vote)
5. Gardner-Webb (93)
6. Radford (76)
T-7. UNC Asheville (70)
T-7. Presbyterian (70)
9. Hampton (50)
10. USC Upstate (38)
11. Winthrop (23)
12. Charleston Southern (18)
 
Preseason All-Conference First Team
Skyler Curran, High Point (Preseason Player of the Year)
Kyla McMakin, Longwood
Akila Smith, Longwood
Nadiria Evans, UNC Asheville
Shy Tuelle, Campbell
 
Preseason All-Conference Second Team
Jenson Edwards, High Point
Chanin Scott, North Carolina A&T
Taya Bolden, Campbell
Nylah Young, Hampton
Alasia Smith, Gardner-Webb
 
#HorsePower

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