VIDEO: Chuck Benson Interview
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Carson-Newman (15-14) moseys up the mountain to open the 2019 slate with a conference challenge in Banner Elk, N.C. against host institution Lees-McRae (11-18) Friday evening before taking on King (15-14) Saturday.
Tipoff with the Bobcats Friday night inside of Williams Gym is set for 7 p.m. The Eagles and Tornado get underway Saturday at 2 p.m.
"I've really enjoyed our preseason," Carson-Newman head men's basketball coach Chuck Benson said. "I've loved the attitude and competitiveness of this group of guys. I'm excited to see how they do what we're trying to do."
Carson-Newman men's basketball is 42-20 all-time in season opening games. The Eagles are 6-1 over the last seven seasons in lidlifters. Carson-Newman opened last season with a 67-50 win over Southern Wesleyan.
The contest returns Carson-Newman to the site of its 2012 season opener. Lees-McRae played host to the Eagles on Nov. 12, 2012. Carson-Newman rallied from a 17-point deficit in Williams Gym to collect the program's 1,000th win 68-62.
"Both King and Lees-McRae have proven players back who were dealing with injuries or redshirt years last year," Benson said. "Lees-McRae has one of the best perimeter players in Conference Carolinas in Kamil Williams; King has four seniors averaging double figures led by Jordan Floyd who returns, and if he's not an All-American, I don't know who is."
This year's iteration of the Bobcats was picked to finish sixth in the annual Conference Carolinas Preseason Coaches' Poll. In spite of being picked sixth, the Bobcats did pick up two of the 11 first-place votes in the CC preseason poll.
The trio of Quay Kimble, Jason Saintizaire and Kamil Williams were named players to watch for the Bobcats during the upcoming 2019-20 season.
Kimble led Conference Carolinas in steals a year ago. He averaged 13.4 points per game. Kimble had eight points in last year's 108-77 winfor Carson-Newman in Jefferson City. Saintizaire redshirted last year, but during the 2017-18 season, Saintizaire was an All-Conference Carolinas Third Team honoree and helped the Bobcats to their first conference championship in program history. Furthermore, Saintizaire broke the program's single season record for free throws made in a season with 138 in 2017-18.
Like Saintizaire, Williams will be back after redshirting the 2018-19 season. The guard from West Palm Beach, Florida averaged 11.8 points and knocked down 69 three-pointers during his lone season as a Bobcat back in 2017-18. His 69 made threes was the 11th-most in a single season in program history.
Carson-Newman has won 13 straight against Lees-McRae dating back to the 1995-96 season. C-N's average margin of victory on the 13-game winning streak has been 15.6 ppg. The Eagles have seven double-digit wins during that stretch and a quartet of victories of at least 20 points.
Meanwhile, the Eagles will be going for a third straight win over the Tornado. C-N has won back-to-back one-point games over King after the Tornado won seven straight in the series.
C-N leads the all-time ledger against the school from Bristol, Tenn. 61-16.
The Tornado looks to rebound following a sixth place finish in Conference Carolinas play a season ago. Head coach George Pitts returns third team all-conference performer James Brown as well as 2017-18 Conference Carolinas Player of the Year Jordan Floyd to lead the Tornado in 2019-20.
Floyd was also selected D2CCA first team All-Southeast Region and NABC second team all-region. He also garnered ECAC Player of the Year accolades after leading Conference Carolinas with an average of 21.7 points per game.
Tipoff Friday between the Eagles and Bobcats is set for 7 p.m. Coverage will be available 15 minutes prior to tip on the Eagle Sports Network with the AEC Countdown to Tipoff on The Mountain 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at cneagles.com/live.