Matt Lewis

Junior guard Matt Lewis slams it home against Northeastern in the 2018-19 season.

With less than a month until tipoff for college basketball, the CAA hosted the 2019 Men’s Basketball Media Day. The afternoon began with the reveal of the preseason poll, in which JMU men’s basketball was tabbed to finish No. 4. The Dukes received three first-place votes.  

Hofstra was tabbed to finish first despite having less first-place votes than the preseason No. 2 team, the College of Charleston. Northeastern, JMU, Delaware and Towson took third through sixth, respectively, and William & Mary, Drexel, UNCW and Elon rounded out the remaining places. 

For All-Conference teams, JMU junior guard Matt Lewis was named first team All-Conference. Lewis was tied with former guard Stuckey Mosley for top scorer with 16.4 points per game. Junior guard Darius Banks found himself on the second-team All-CAA following a campaign that saw him average 12.3 points, five rebounds and a .468 field goal percentage. He also broke the program record for three-point percentage, shooting 49.3% beyond the arc.

Going 14-19 (6-12 CAA) last season, JMU advanced to the 2019 CAA Men’s Basketball Tournament quarterfinals after defeating Towson 74-73 via a buzzer-beating 3-pointer. It ultimately fell to Hofstra, meaning the Dukes haven’t advanced to the CAA semifinals since 2013, where they won the tournament. 

JMU is one of two teams in the conference that returns four starters. It also only has one senior in guard Antanee Pinkard, with eight of 13 players being either freshmen or sophomores. 

Sophomore guard Deshon Parker was named a CAA All-Rookie last season after accumulating 100 assists. Sophomore forward Dwight Wilson also returns after averaging 10.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, both improvements from his freshman season. 

“It’s a good feeling knowing you got guys out there with you that can compete and help us win,” Lewis said on the Media Day teleconference. 

Lewis and head coach Louis Rowe represented JMU on the teleconference and talked about what’s needed for the upcoming season. Both harped on the importance of consistency throughout the season, no matter the opponents or the magnitude of games. 

Another aspect of JMU’s team that Rowe wants to be a pillar of success is the younger players stepping into the spotlight. It’s no secret Rowe can spot talent, but helping the underclassmen transition into solid players at the collegiate level can be challenging. Freshman forward Michael Christmas is expected to take on a big role, and redshirt freshman forward Devon Flowers — who sat out most of last season with an injury — will hope to be an asset to the Dukes’ success in 2019-20.

“I’m really proud at the way these guys worked in the summer,” Rowe said. “Coming into this year, these guys know that these young guys have to step up and contribute a little bit. They’ve been right on them, pushing them, supporting them and teaching them … They know what it takes, and they’re holding these guys accountable.”

A key loss for JMU is Mosley, who was the Dukes’ top scorer for the past two seasons. However, Rowe stated the team can’t rely on a single player — it must be able to use as many of its weapons as it can. Depth will be critical to JMU’s success, especially when it faces a tough non-conference schedule that includes the defending national champion U. Va and Conference USA champion Old Dominion. 

In the final season at the Convocation Center, the Dukes are set to try and fulfill their fourth-place pick in the preseason poll. Although a few players will need to take a big step, Rowe is confident his squad will tune out the noise and simply win games. 

Contact Noah Ziegler at breezesports@gmail.com. For more basketball coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.

There comes a time where an athlete realizes their true potential. When I realized that I was never going to make a living on the court, I figured I’d make it on the sidelines. I hope to be able to attend and cover the World Cup and NCAA tournament.