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October 3, 2013

C-USA Players to Watch




Conference USA men's basketball coaches have selected their 16 preseason Players to Watch for the upcoming 2013-14 season, which includes Tulsa guard James Woodard.

The list features nine all-conference performers, eight with postseason experience and a number of all-region selections and chart climbers. This preseason roster includes eight seniors, five juniors and three sophomores.

Conference USA will open its 19th men's basketball campaign on Friday, November 8, and will culminate with the 2014 Conference USA Basketball Championship, March 11-15 in El Paso, Texas. UTEP will serve as the host school for the second time in four years. The men's championship game is slated for Saturday, March 15 at 11:30 a.m. EST/9:30 a.m. MST and will be nationally televised on CBS.

2013-14 C-USA PRESEASON PLAYERS TO WATCH

Pierriá Henry, Charlotte, Junior, Guard, Charleston, W.Va.
Henry was named to the 2013 Atlantic 10 All-Defensive Team. In each of the last two seasons, Henry has been ranked in the top 10 in the nation in steals per game. Last season, he earned Great Alaska Shootout Most Outstanding Player honors after helping the 49ers capture the Great Alaska Shootout title. In 2012, he was named to the Atlantic 10 All-Rookie team. Henry is the 49ers leading returning scorer after averaging 10.3 points per game last season. In August, Henry went to Liberia with Athletes in Action.

Akeem Richmond, East Carolina, Senior, Guard, Sanford, N.C.
Richmond is the Pirates' leading returning scorer this season after averaging 10.6 points in 20 minutes per game as a reserve. A transfer from the University of Rhode Island, Richmond stroked the nets for an ECU-record 105 made three-pointers last season. He led C-USA in three-point field goals made (3.0) and ranked 16th in the country. He has already scored more than 1,000 points in his career and ranks second among all active Division I players with 269 career treys. Richmond is one of 12 players in league history to make 100 or more three-pointers in a single-season.

Tymell Murphy, FIU, Senior, Forward, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Murphy was named a First Team NABC All-Region selection as well as a First-Team All-Sun Belt Conference selection during the 2012-13 season. He appeared in 32 games for the Panthers, starting in 31, averaging 14.6 ppg and 6.8 rpg. Murphy led the Panthers in both scoring and rebounding and shot 57.3 percent (196-of-342) from the floor and 31.6 percent (12-of-38) from 3-point range. He led the conference and ranked No. 18 nationally in field goal percentage. On the year, Murphy scored in double-figures in 29 games and notched eight double-doubles (No. 97 in the nation).

Dragan Sekelja, Florida Atlantic, Redshirt Senior, Center, Zagreb, Croatia
As a junior transfer last season, he appeared in all 32 games for the Owls with 12 starts. He scored nine points vs. North Carolina in the season opener (11/11/12). He also had 11 rebounds vs. Warner Southern (12/9/12) and registered an eight-point, seven-rebound performance against league foe North Texas (1/19/13). Sekelja finished the season with 41 assists.

Raheem Appleby, Louisiana Tech, Junior, Guard, Jacksonville, Ark.
Appleby has garnered numerous awards in his first two seasons at LA Tech, including second team All-WAC and WAC Freshman of the year in 2011-12 followed by a first team All-WAC selection his sophomore season. He was also named to the 2013 All-District 6 first team by the NABC as he registered 24 double-digit scoring games and was the team's leading scorer in 17 games. Appleby is only 48 points shy of reaching 1,000 career points scored.

Elijah Pittman, Marshall, Senior, Forward, Covington, Ky.
Pittman led the team in scoring last season with 16.1 points per game and holds the title as the top returning scorer in Conference USA. He scored double-digit points in all but four games and netted at least 20 points in 11 games. During the Herd's five game exhibition trip in Canada this past August, Pittman averaged 16.4 points and 7.4 rebounds. Of Marshall's five returners from the 2012-13 season, 89.1 percent of the scoring was by Pittman.

Shawn Jones, Middle Tennessee, Senior, Forward, Hialeah, Fla.
Jones is Middle Tennessee's top returner in both points and rebounds. A year before, he ranked second on the team in both categories, averaging 8.5 points per game and 5.4 boards a contest. Jones helped MT to its second-straight Sun Belt Conference regular season title and to an NCAA Tournament appearance with a 28-6 overall record and 19-1 mark in conference play. He posted a team-high three double-doubles on the season, and led MT in scoring four times and in rebounding eight times. He also led MT in blocking with 43 denials on the season and ranked sixth in the Sun Belt.

Jordan Williams, North Texas, Junior, Guard, Dallas, Texas
An explosive scoring threat, Williams led North Texas and ranked ninth in the Sun Belt with 14.2 points per game as a sophomore last season. Williams improved as the season progressed and averaged 16.0 points in conference play and 18.5 points over the season's final 13 games. Deft off the dribble, Williams is a career 48.1 percent shooter inside the 3-point arc, yet he's hit 69 shots from deep in his career. Not just an offensive weapon, he posted 18 blocks and 23 steals on the Mean Green perimeter.

Keenan Palmore, Old Dominion, Sophomore, Guard, Stone Mountain, Ga.
As one of the team's leaders on the court, Palmore represents the Monarchs on the 2013-14 Conference USA Men's Basketball Preseason Players to Watch list. As a freshman last season, Palmore earned league All-Rookie team honors. He ranked eighth in the league in assists at 3.0 per game, and second in steals at 1.9 per game. He scored a career high 17 points against William and Mary, came up with five steals against Drexel and hauled down nine rebounds against both Holy Cross, his first collegiate game and Towson.

Max Guercy, Rice, Sophomore, Guard, Arleta, Calif.
The point guard made an extremely quick transition to the collegiate game, starting all 31 contests for Rice as a rookie. He was named to the Conference USA All-Freshman team and is Rice's top returning scorer. Guercy won C-USA Freshman of the Week honors a league-high five times, while also earning a spot on the C-USA Commissioner's Honor Roll. He ranked third on the Owls with 9.5 ppg last season while leading the squad in assists (79) and steals (45). He notched 10.3 points per game in league play. Guercy posted a string of 20-straight games with a three-pointer made, good for the fifth-longest streak in program history. He led C-USA freshmen and ranked sixth overall in free throw accuracy, and ranked second among league freshmen in assists and steals.

Neil Watson, Southern Miss, Senior, Guard, Kansas City, Kan.
Watson was one of the top playmakers in the league last season, setting conference records with 17 assists in a game and three-point percentage in a game (7-of-7). In 2011-12, he was named Second Team All-Conference USA, the C-USA Newcomer of the Year and the C-USA Sixth Man of the Year. He is 230 points from reaching 1,000 for his career. Watson currently holds the school record in free throw percentage, connecting on 82.7-percent from the line. He ranks 10th on the school list in assists (328) and second in three-point field goal percentage (.412). He also set school records with 64 steals on the season, 17 assists in a game and eight steals in a game.

Tre Drye, Tulane, Junior, Forward, Baton Rouge, La.
Drye is the lone returning starter from Tulane's 20-win season a year ago. He has started 28 games in his career, including 25 last season as a sophomore. Drye enters the 2013-14 season averaging 4.1 points and 4.3 rebounds per game.

James Woodard, Tulsa, Sophomore, Guard, Edmond, Okla.
A 2013 Conference USA All-Freshman Team selection, Woodard played in 32 games with 29 starts and led Tulsa in scoring and rebounding. He averaged 12.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game. Woodard registered 22 double-digit-point games, including four times with 20 or more, and five double-doubles. Woodard led TU in scoring 10 times and rebounding 12 times. With 383 points, he ranked second on the TU freshman charts, and ranked third with 187 rebounds. He also ranked 10th historically among TU freshmen in assists and steals. Woodard was named C-USA Freshman of the Week four times in 2012-13.

Rod Rucker, UAB, Senior, Forward, Elberton, Ga.
A 2012 Second Team All-Conference USA performer, Rucker comes into the 2013-14 season after leading the Blazers in scoring (14.5 ppg) and rebounding (8.2 rpg) last year. He reached double figures in scoring in 26 of UAB's 33 games last season. His 8.2 rebounds per game ranked sixth in the league in 2012-13. Rucker boasted a team-high 11 double-doubles in his first season with the Blazers last year. He was also named the March 4 C-USA Player of the Week.

Julian Washburn, UTEP, Junior, Forward/Guard, Duncanville, Texas
Washburn earned Third Team All-Conference USA honors and was a member of the league's All-Defensive squad in 2013. He led the Miners in scoring (12.3 ppg) and tied for second in steals (0.9 spg). In the C-USA statistics, he rated ninth in minutes played and 19th in scoring. Washburn led the team with 24 double-figure scoring games. In the last four games, he averaged 18.0 points, shooting 63 percent (29-for-46) from the field and 83.3 percent (10-for-12) from the charity stripe.

Jeromie Hill, UTSA, Senior, Forward, Cairns, Australia
Hill ranks tied for fourth in school history with 92 starts, sixth with 598 rebounds, seventh with 454 field goals, eighth with 1,195 career points and ninth with a 6.5 rebounding average. Last season, he became just the sixth player in program history to record at least 1,000 points and 500 rebounds when he surpassed both barriers with 12 points and nine boards against Utah State. In all, Hill made 26 starts and averaged 13.1 points per game, which ranked third on the team, and led the squad at 6.5 boards per outing, while shooting 41.3 percent from the floor.




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