AMERICUS – Uncertainty. That's the common thread amongst Peach Belt Conference coaches when it comes to determining just how good the Georgia Southwestern men's basketball team will be in 2012-13. GSW garnered ninth place out of 14 teams in the coaches' preseason poll released Thursday afternoon, but the Hurricanes received votes from fourth place all the way to 12th.
Southwestern is hoping history repeats itself as the last time GSW was picked ninth in the PBC coaches' preseason poll was two seasons ago (2010-11) when the 'Canes went on to win their first division championship.
Those successes rolled into a much-anticipated 2011-12 campaign. The Hurricanes delivered early, winning seven of their first eight games. GSW was 12-4 in mid-January when devastation struck and All-American Phillip Brown was lost for the season due to injury. Southwestern proceeded to drop 11 of its last 12 games, including the final seven to end the year, to finish 12-14 overall and 3-14 in the PBC.
Along with Brown (16.2 ppg), the Hurricanes lose four of their top five scorers heading into this season. Gone are All-PBC selection Evan Mobley (14.3 ppg), Colin Slotter (12.3 ppg) and the squad's assist leader Marlon Rivera (8.9 ppg).
The top returning scorer is senior Milos Kleut (10.2 ppg). Kleut led the conference in overall field goal percentage (66.2) while coming in 16th in total rebounds (96) during PBC play.
Last year's sixth man, junior Jamon Hawkins, is back this season. Hawkins looks to pick up where he left off in February, scoring in double figures five of the final six games, including a career-high 22 points in the season finale at Columbus State.
GSW will also look to senior Matt Shaw for major contributions in 2012-13. Shaw battled injuries last season, appearing in 15 games, but averaged almost three rebounds per contest and 8.4 points per 40 minutes when healthy.
The major question mark for Southwestern will come with the new faces on the roster. GSW welcomes six newcomers, all transfers. There are no freshmen on the roster and the lone sophomore is returner Colby Czerepinski. So newcomers will be asked to contribute immediately.
One thing that will not change for the Hurricanes is an emphasis on defense. With all the questions on where the scoring will come from this year, it's a certainty that head coach Mike Leeder will have GSW playing stellar defense. The Hurricanes finished third in steals per game (8.1) last year while holding opponents to the third-lowest points against average (64.4).
The Hurricanes travel to Auburn University on Monday for an exhibition game at 8 p.m. EST before opening the regular season on Nov. 9 at home against Fort Valley State at 7:30 p.m.
For complete ballot results click here.