Mesa men 6th, women 4th in RMAC hoops poll
Andy Shantz knows the Colorado Mesa men’s basketball team will look a little different this year.
Any time you take a 6-foot-11 player of the year out of the mix, it’s bound to change.
The RMAC coaches, too, figure the Mavericks, who finished third in the conference last season (21-9, 16-6 RMAC), will be different, picking them to finish sixth in the preseason poll released Tuesday.
“Ryan (Stephan) was such a big part of what we did, but you don’t win 21 games with only one player,” Shantz said. “Last year we started with a lot of new guys and this year it’s kind of the opposite. We don’t have Ryan but we have a lot of returners. We think they’re good players and they’ll have a good opportunity to compete this year and show everybody what we have.”
Senior guard Eimer Lopez made the preseason all-RMAC team after leading the conference in assists and averaging 12.6 points a game.
The Mavericks, who open practice on Friday, return two other double-figure scorers, but one, guard Kabir West, won’t play until the spring semester. West, who averaged 10.1 points a game last season, has one semester of eligibility remaining because of transfer rules. Junior guard CJ Davis averaged 12.8 points a game and returns, along with point guard Brandon Hoffer and wing Connor Nichols, both of whom logged lots of time as freshmen.
And although coaches don’t put a whole lot of stock into preseason polls, Shantz said being tabbed No. 6 might provide some motivation.
“A lot of guys have something to prove,” he said. “Motivation is important and sometimes it doesn’t matter where motivation comes from.”
Fans will have a chance to get a sneak peek at the Mavericks with “Midnight Madness” starting at 10:30 p.m. on Oct. 21 at Brownson Arena. Both the men’s and women’s teams will participate, and the players are excited about the event.
“I think it kicks off the season in the right way, gets the crowd out to support us and see what we’ve been working on,” guard Bryanna Adams said. “It will be a fun atmosphere.”
Adams made the preseason all-RMAC team on the women’s side, with CMU picked fourth, along with Black Hills State.
The Mavericks are unaccustomed to finishing out of the top spot, with injuries and a host of new players attributing to their seventh-place finish last season (17-10, 14-8).
“One thing I took from it is never take anything for granted,” coach Taylor Wagner said. “Those injuries to Erin (Reichle) and Kirsten (Strong) changed us a little bit. The 10 games we lost, we were in eight of them in the last quarter, but we didn’t have that extra burst to push us over.”
Reichle, last year’s preseason player of the year, missed the entire season with an ankle injury that required surgery, but she’s back in the gym now. Strong decided to end her career because of a recurring knee injury.
Adams averaged 17.3 points a game last season, with guard Sydney Small scoring 10.3 points a game. Reichle averaged 17.4 points her sophomore year and had 106 assists.
“She knows the program, she knows the plays, she’s got leadership,” Wagner said of his junior point guard. “She knows what it takes to win a championship and that’s what I’m excited about. She’s able to show the newcomers how it’s done.”
Adams learned last season what it takes, and getting the preseason all-conference honor has her ready to go.
“The program the past few years has been great,” she said. “Before I came here it was awesome and we have to keep that going. (Being picked fourth) is just a number and we’re going to attack it.”