The Great American Conference has announced the results of its 2021-22 GAC men’s basketball preseason coaches’ poll. Oklahoma Baptist and Southern Arkansas each received six first-place votes but the Bison finished one point ahead of the Muleriders to claim the top spot.
The Bison went 16-6 last season and earned an NCAA Tournament berth for the second-straight season. GAC Coach of the Year Jason Eaker returns First-Team All-GAC honoree Brantly Thompson and Second-Team selection Harrison Stoddart as well as Nigel Wilcox who led the conference in field goal percentage.
The Muleriders produced a 15-6 record a season ago, won at Oklahoma Baptist to reach the final of the GAC Championships and earned the program’s first NCAA Tournament bid. Aaron Lucas, the GAC’s Player and Defensive Player of the Year returns after leading the GAC in both points and steals per game.
SAU also brings back Jalen and Devante Brooks. Both averaged more than 12.0 points per game and both ranked in the top five in the league in rebounds per game.
Southern Nazarene clipped Southeastern Oklahoma State by two points for the third position in the poll. The Crimson Storm’s Adokiye Iyaye earned Newcomer of the Year after scoring 17.0 points per game. He registered six 20-point games. Manny Dixon added 14.5 points per game to make the All-GAC
Honorable Mention list. The Savage Storm also bring back a pair of All-GAC honorees in Adam Dworsky and Kellen Manek. Dworsky ranked third in the country in assists per game, 6.8, and enters this season as the nation’s active leader with a GAC-record 679 assists. Manek, as well as Bobby Johnson and Vadim Clanet all averaged at least 12.0 points per game.
Henderson State checked in at the fifth slot, followed by Arkansas Tech and East Central. The Reddies' Malik Riddle made the All-GAC Second Team after he scored 12.6 points per game and grabbed 5.7 rebounds per game. Tech’s Cejay Mann collected GAC Freshman of the Year after averaging 11.3 points
per game and shooting 37.3 percent from the 3-point arc. The Tigers have a new head coach in Max Pendery. He inherits a pair of 2021 All-GAC Second-Team players in Josh Apple and Jalen Crutchfield. Crutchfield led ECU in scoring at 14.7 points per game. Apple added 13.3 points per game and led the Tigers in rebounds and blocked shots. His 62.4 field goal percentage ranked second in the GAC.
Ouachita placed eighth, followed closely by Harding and Southwestern Oklahoma State. The Tigers’ Kendarious Smith led the team in scoring, 15.9 points per game, and field goal percentage, 53.2 percent, as he made the All-GAC Second Team. Harding’s Ramiro Santiago averaged 15.8 points per game and made the All-GAC Honorable Mention list. SWOSU’S Damion Thornton led the Bulldogs in scoring, rebounding and field goal percentage.
Northwestern Oklahoma State and Arkansas-Monticello rounded out the poll.
The Rangers’ Bubba Furlong led the GAC in rebounding and blocked shots. UAM named Chad Tapp its new head coach following the departure of Kyle Tolin.
The regular season begins Friday, November 12 with eight schools – Oklahoma Baptist, SAU, Southern Nazarene, Southeastern, ECU, Ouachita, Harding and Northwestern Oklahoma State opening play. Henderson State, Tech, SWOSU and UAM tip off the following day.