After notching the first Peach Belt Conference tournament title in program history last season, the UNCP men’s basketball team hopes to replicate that success this year.
Their competitors around the conference think they will be able to do so as well. The team received eight of 11 first-place votes in a preseason poll voted on by PBC head coaches.
The Braves graduated a group of consistent contributors last season that included Alex Bradley, Quamain Rose and Mike Smith. However, several experienced returners are expected to continue making a difference for UNCP.
This season’s roster features a trio of seniors. Brandon Watts, Nigel Grant and Bryson Hall will all bring valuable experience to the program.
Grant and Hall were the team’s leaders in scoring last season, averaging 14.6 and 13.3 points per game, respectively.
Grant was also second on the team in rebounds with an average of six per game, slightly trailing current sophomore Akia Pruitt’s average of 8.5.
Pruitt is part of a talented group of returners that is characterized by skill and, perhaps most importantly, postseason experience. He is joined by Carson Mounce, James Murray-Boyles and Giavonni Mack.
One of UNCP’s biggest strengths is the high potential of its freshman class. Four newcomers will be learning the ropes of college basketball this season.
David Strother, a Lumberton native, comes from Village Christian Academy. Cam Hamilton comes to UNCP from Charlotte and attended Vance High School. Tyrell Kirk is from nearby Whiteville, where he prepped at Whiteville High School. Jamal Bryant hails from Florence, S.C., and attended Wilson High School.
Those freshmen will need to adapt to the higher level of competition quickly. Having already beaten All-Army in a scrimmage on Oct. 26, the Braves are set to take on Division 1 opponents Creighton and Northern Iowa in exhibitions before starting their nonconference schedule. They travel to Creighton on Nov. 3 before closing out the road trip on Nov. 5 at Northern Iowa.
Following that tough pair of games, UNCP will host the PBC/SAC challenge at Lumbee Guaranty Bank Court. They will take on Lenoir Rhyne and Catawba on Nov. 10 and Nov. 11, respectively, as part of the event.
UNCP kicks off a challenging conference slate when they travel to Young Harris on Dec. 2. The team’s first home conference game is on Dec. 17.