Admission to Kennesaw State Men's and Women's Basketball Exhibitions Free

Admission will be free to this week's Kennesaw State men's and women's basketball exhibition games.

The men's team, under second-year head coach Lewis Preston, will make its 2012-13 season debut on Thursday when it hosts Piedmont in the KSU Convocation Center beginning at 7 p.m.

First-year head coach Nitra Perry and women's team will make their first appearance of the season on Friday with a home exhibition against Southern Poly Tech beginning at 6 p.m.

Kennesaw State Men's Basketball Outlook

Preseason Prospectus (PDF) | Schedule | Roster

A state-of-the-art scoreboard, re-designed logos and uniforms and a new-look “Scrappy” are not the only things that will be new to the KSU Convocation Center when the 2012-13 Kennesaw State men’s basketball season opens.

Head coach Lewis Preston has brought in eight newcomers, including a talented group of five freshmen, to compliment five returning players. Preston is hoping that will be the right formula in building a foundation for sustained success as the program enters its eighth year at the Division I level.

With three of the Atlantic Sun Conference’s top players returning and an influx of new talent joining the program, there is reason for optimism for an Owls team anxious to establish itself as a contender in a revamped A-Sun Conference that lost 2012 champion Belmont and welcomes Northern Kentucky to the league.

“We’re very excited right now. I think the most important thing is I have five freshmen that have been here since May 31 and they’ve done a great job to this point along with five veterans. I have two young men who are transfers, so we have a good blend of experience and youth, ” Preston said. “They’ve been working hard, not only in the weight room, but in some of the individual workouts, so I am very excited.”

The source of that excitement comes from the return of senior guard Markeith Cummings, senior forward Aaron Anderson and sophomore guard Delbert Love. The trio combined for 58.5 percent of Kennesaw State’s total points last season.

Cummings, who earned second team A-Sun all-conference honors a year ago and was named to this year’s preseason all-league team, has established himself as one of the best players in program history after averaging 15.4 points and 5.3 rebounds a contest last season. The Owls’ senior ranked second in the A-Sun in scoring after producing 25 double-digit scoring games and leading the club in scoring 12 times.

“I think the most important thing (for Markeith) is accepting and taking on the challenge that he is going to have every night being the best player on our team and being able to accept that challenge not only offensively but defensively and to understand good versus great shots, and I think more importantly, to be able to get other people involved.” Preston said. “If he can do that I think we have a chance to have a successful year.”

Cummings enters the season ranked No. 3 on Kennesaw State’s all-time career scoring list with 1,603 points, 81 points shy of eclipsing Herman Smith (1986-90), who holds the program record with 1,683 points. He also ranks No. 2 all-time in points-per-game (17.0), No. 3 in field goals (564) and field goals attempted (1,240), and first in free throws made (409) and free throws attempted (604).

Anderson is coming off a career year in which he led the A-Sun Conference with 9.0 rebounds a contest and added 8.9 points a game. He scored in double-digits 15 times, had 14 double-digit rebounding games and his 280 rebounds established an Owls’ Division I era single-season record.

In just two years in the program, Anderson has established himself as a premier frontline player and etched his name in the Kennesaw State record books. The Tucson native enters his senior campaign sixth all-time with 7.6 rebounds a contest. His 473 career rebounds tie for fourth all-time during the program’s Division I era, while his rebound average ranks third and 35 blocked shots are seventh.

“Aaron just does everything that you want him to do,” Preston said. “He works hard, gives great effort, has great energy, led the league in rebounding last year and is looking to do the same thing this season. He told me he wants to finish his career here with a double-double (average).”

Love is coming off a rookie season in which he was a unanimous selection to the A-Sun’s All-Freshman team after averaging 12.4 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.7 steals a contest. He started all 31 games and led all A-Sun Conference freshmen in scoring while averaging a team-high 36.5 minutes a game.

“Delbert just got better as the season went along. He kind of hit the wall in February which is understandable,” Preston said. “He’s really put in a lot work in the spring and summer. He’s stepped up leadership wise for us as well, so I am expecting great things from him in his sophomore year.”

The list of returners is rounded out by junior forwards Brandon Dawson and Andrew Osemhen. Both players primarily made contributions off the bench during the 2011-12 season. Dawson appeared in all 31 games, starting 16, and averaged 3.6 points and 2.1 rebounds a contest. He started the final eight games of the season and contributed 8.1 points a contest.

Osemhen played in 28 games and averaged 0.6 points and 1.3 rebounds while averaging 8.6 minutes a contest.

Looking to rebound from a 3-28 campaign a year ago, Preston’s goal is to develop a winning environment and has brought in a group of freshmen that come from successful high school programs. Most notably are Cole Hobbs (Atlanta, Ga. / Greater Atlanta Christian School) and Jordan Montgomery (Orlando, Fla. / Orlando Christian Prep).

The duo combined to help their teams claim four state titles and one runner-up finish. Hobbs played a key role in leading his Greater Atlanta Christian School team to the 2011 Georgia state title. Montgomery sparked his Orlando Christian Prep squad to three Florida state championships, and a runner-up finish in 2011.

“Cole is a knockdown shooter with great size. I think he is going to be able to come in and fight for some minutes right away,” Preston said.

Hobbs set single-season marks for three-point baskets made and free throw percentage (94 percent), and concluded his career as Greater Atlanta Christian’s all-time leader in free throw percentage (89 percent).

“Jordan Montgomery comes from a championship program. He brings that championship mentality, both defensively as well as offensively to our team,” Preston said.

The freshman class is rounded out by Myles Hamilton (Cleveland, Ohio / St. Edward HS), Nigel Pruitt (Potomac, Md. / Bullis School) and Yonel Brown (Lawrenceville, Ga. / Berkmar HS).

Hamilton averaged 17.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 3.0 steals while leading St. Edward High School to the Ohio state semifinals. He finished his prep career with 1,008 points.

“Myles is going to bring a toughness, a tenacity, a fire, an energy, and a passion as well as being able to play a variety of guard spots for us,” Preston said.

Pruitt, a two-time All-Interstate Athletic Conference (IAC) selection, averaged 17.5 points and shot 75 percent from the foul line while helping The Bullis School to the IAC championship as a senior in 2012.

“Nigel comes from a championship program. He is going to give us added depth at the guard and forward position,” Preston said.

Brown was a three-year letterwinner at Berkmar High where he led his team in scoring each season and concluded his career with 1,299 points.

“Yonel is a pass first, pass second, shoot third guard and is going to give us added depth at the point guard position which is something we didn’t have last year,” Preston said.

“Each one of the these guys brings something unique to the table both offensively and defensively and now we just have to be able to fit them in with our veterans and make sure everything runs smoothly throughout the course of the year,” Preston said.

Junior Kris Drees (Cumming, Ga. / West Forsyth HS), who joined the program this fall as a walk-on, is expected to add depth along the frontline. Drees averaged 12.5 points and 6.0 rebounds a game as a senior in 2009.

The roster is rounded out by Bernard Morena and Willy Kouassi, a pair of highly-regarded transfers from Auburn. Both players will redshirt during the 2012-13 season in accordance with NCAA transfer rules.

Morena did not see any playing time during his lone season at Auburn, while Kouassi came off the bench to appear in 25 games as a freshman. He contributed 1.6 points, 2.6 rebounds and 0.6 blocks while averaging 10.2 minutes a game.

“They give us is added depth, much more from a practice standpoint this year,” Preston said. “Willy gives us great depth inside. He’s long, athletic and gets up and down the court very well. Bernard gives us added depth at the forward position.”

After allowing 75.2 points a game during the 2011-12 season, Preston is looking for this year’s team to play more physical on defense and use its size to keep the ball out of the paint and force opponents to shoot over out-stretched hands.

“Defense, understanding our footwork, understanding ball-deny help. I think the most important thing is just making sure our guys know where they need to be as the ball gets there,” Preston said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do, but I see some bright spots.”

The Owls also will be looking to improve offensively after averaging just 69.1 points a contest and ranking 10th in the A-Sun Conference. Kennesaw State also ranked 10th in the conference with a 41.5 percent field goal percentage mark.

Despite being picked to finish ninth in the A-Sun Conference by the league coaches, Preston foresees a balanced conference and wide-open race.

“We all have familiarity with the league now,” Preston said. “Our league is also a veteran league this year. Mercer has four returning starters; USC Upstate literally brings everyone back in its starting five, Florida Gulf Coast, North Florida, Jacksonville and Stetson. I think Lipscomb and East Tennessee State and ourselves have revamped rosters for the most part.

“I’m excited about our league. I’m excited about our non-conference schedule as we prepare for this 2012-2013 year,” Preston added.

Kennesaw State will be tested right away when it travels to Knoxville to take on Tennessee at Boling-Thompson Arena on Nov. 9 beginning at 7 p.m. The Volunteers posted a 19-15 overall record, tied for second in the Southeastern Conference and advanced to the second round of the National Invitation Tournament.

The schedule also features a pair of road games against Big East stalwarts Notre Dame (Dec. 19) and Pittsburgh (Dec. 23). The Fighting Irish went 22-12 and advanced to the NCAA Tournament a year ago, while the Panthers recorded a 22-17 mark and won the College Basketball Invitational Tournament.

Both Notre Dame and Pittsburgh will be familiar opponents for Preston, who spent six seasons (2000-06) as an assistant coach for the Irish, and three years (2008-11) on the coaching staff at Penn State.

"I am excited about our non-conference schedule," Preston said. "Having the opportunity to play quality opponents from the SEC, Big East Conference, Atlantic-10 Conference and Southern Conference will help us in preparation for our conference schedule.

"My philosophy on scheduling is to put together a schedule that is challenging, yet gives us an opportunity to be successful and builds confidence as we move into our conference schedule," Preston added.

Following their season opener at Tennessee, the Owls will visit South Carolina State on Nov. 12 before taking part in the Eastern Kentucky Tournament, Nov. 16-18, in Richmond, Ky. In addition to Kennesaw State and Eastern Kentucky, the field also includes Towson and Radford.

The Owls will make their regular-season home debut on Nov. 21 when they face Georgia Southern before hosting the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga on Nov. 24. After a road contest against at the University of Tennessee at Martin on Dec. 1, Kennesaw State plays its final non-conference home game against Charlotte on Dec. 16.

The non-conference schedule concludes with road contests at Notre Dame on Dec. 19, a visit to Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW) on Dec. 21 followed by a trip to Pittsburgh.

The Owls’ non-conference schedule includes three teams (Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Tennessee) that posted winning records during the 2011-12 season.

Kennesaw State begins its 18-game Atlantic Sun Conference schedule on Monday, Dec. 30, when it hosts Stetson. It marks the first of three straight home games to begin conference play. The Owls will take on Florida Gulf Coast on Jan. 2 before welcoming in-state rival Mercer on Jan. 5.

The Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament is slated for Mar. 6-9 at The University Center in Macon, Ga. Highlighting the A-Sun Conference schedule will be rival Mercer, which captured the 2012 Tournament (CIT) and USC Upstate, which posted a first-round win in the CIT. The Bears finished last season with a 27-8 overall record and the Spartans concluded the year 21-13.

Kennesaw State University is celebrating 30 years of intercollegiate athletics during the 2012-13 academic year.