No respect for UALR; Sun Belt coaches pick Trojans sixth

Sun Belt Conference coaches showed little respect for UALR with the release of the preseason predictions and all conference teams.

UALR was picked to finish sixth in the 10-team Sun Belt Conference, well behind the top five.

This year marks the start of a new era in Sun Belt Conference basketball. With basketball membership down to 10 teams the divisional format was scrapped. All 10 teams will compete in one standings and play a full 18-game round robin schedule.

Gone from the conference are Middle Tennessee, North Texas, Florida Atlantic and Florida International. They are replaced this season by Texas-Arlington, Texas State and Georgia State.

Western Kentucky was picked first followed by South Alabama and Arkansas State. Georgia State and Louisiana-Lafayette tied for fourth with 73 points while UALR was sixth at 48 points.

Senior forward Will Neighbour was the only UALR player on the 15-man preseason all-conference teams. Neighbour, who averaged 10.7 points and 7.0 rebounds, landed on the second team.

The first team all-conference unit was Georgia State’s R.J. Hunter, Louisiana-Lafayette’s Shawn Long, Louisiana-Lafayette’s Elfrid Payton, South Alabama’s Augustine Rubit and Western Kentucky’s T.J. Price. Rubit was the preseason player of the year.

UALR returns most of last year’s team that finished 17-15 overall and 11-9 in Sun Belt Conference play. That includes seniors Neighbour and Leroy Isler (7.4 ppg, 3.3 rpg).

More than 71 percent of last year’s scoring returns, including sophomores Josh Hagins (8.1 ppg) and James White (7.2 ppg).