MACON, Ga. - The Mercer men's basketball team has been picked as the favorite to win the Atlantic Sun Conference in a pair of annual preseason polls released by the league office on Thursday. In addition to lofty team prognostications, Langston Hall, Jakob Gollon and Daniel Coursey picked up personal honors.
Hall and Gollon were voted onto the 10-member Preseason All-Atlantic Sun Team, while Coursey was named the league's Preseason Defensive Player of the Year. All three honors were determined by votes from the 10 A-Sun head coaches.
In the coaches' poll, Mercer garnered six first-place votes to total 95 points and edge out USC Upstate (89) as the league's preseason favorite. Florida Gulf Coast collected 75 points, while North Florida (70) and East Tennessee State (54) rounded out the top five teams.
Points are awarded in descending order, with a first-place vote being worth 10 points and a 10th-place vote being worth one point.
"We're excited because others think we have a chance to have a good team," Mercer head coach Bob Hoffman said. "We're excited about the potential and possibilities. It comes with a lot of hard work and determination and as a result of people in our community, our staff and players buying in and working at a high level."
In the media poll, the top three teams mirrored the coaches' poll. Mercer picked up 18 first-place votes and 260 overall points while USC Upstate gathered four media first-place votes and finished with 228 points. FGCU (198) was slotted third while ETSU (180) edged out North Florida (167) for fourth place.
In both the coaches and media poll, the Bears were also picked as favorites to win the Atlantic Sun Tournament. Six of the league's head coaches and 15 media members predicted Mercer as tournament champions.
Hall was named a preseason all-conference player for the first time in his career after picking up a bevy of postseason accolades last year. At season's end, he was an A-Sun All-Conference first team member, a National Association of Basketball Coaches' (NABC) All-District player and the MVP of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament.
Gollon was recognized by the league's coaches after starting all 38 of Mercer's games last season and finishing the year ranked among A-Sun leaders in scoring average (24th - 10.5), rebounding average (8th - 5.9), assists per game (10th - 3.3), steals per game (7th - 1.6), assist-to-turnover ratio (11th - 1.1) and average minutes played (9th - 31.8).
"Their intangibles are unbelievable," Hoffman said. "Both of them are good players but neither of them would want any accolades. They want our team to be successful, that's paramount in their mind. That's not something they just talk about, it's how the play the game."
In 2011-12, Coursey finished as the league leader in blocks, setting a program record with 88 rejections. His average of 2.32 blocks per game ranked 31st in the nation and helped the team finish 12th among Division I programs in field-goal percentage defense (38.6%).
"If you go back and look at the statistics, you can see why we were able to win games like we were able to because we guarded," Hoffman said. "Daniel was the focal point of that defense. He makes a huge difference in the middle and he can erase some mistakes we have on defense from time to time. He makes us even harder to score against and we hope that it happens again this season, because that will put us in a great place to be vying for a championship."
Mercer's quest for an Atlantic Sun title begins on November 10 when the Bears play host to Sewanee in the season opener.