Columbia favored to repeat as AMC mens basketball champion
St. Louis, Mo. - Led by returning AMC Player of the Year Jordan Dressler, Columbia College was picked to repeat as American Midwest Conference men's basketball champions in 2012-13 by the league's coaches, earning eight of of the league's nine first-place votes in the preseason coaches' poll.
The Cougars return four starters in 2012-13, including Dressler's 15.2 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. He was a second-team All-American in the NAIA last season and a first-team All-AMC performer. Columbia also brings back 6-foot-9 forward Hal Payne, who averaged nearly five rebounds a year ago, along with honorable-mention All-AMC guard Devin Griffin, who dished 2.5 assists per game to go with 10.3 points per contest.
Missouri Baptist University follows Columbia, edging Park University by five points in the poll. The Spartans bring back LeAndre' Johnson and Kalvin Lewis in the backcourt, and in the paint, MBU tacked on depth with the addition of 6-foot-7 freshman forward Kendall Smith.
Park is one of the AMC's more unknowns heading into the 2012-13 season, entering the year with a 15-player roster that includes just two returners and no starters. Michael Anorue, who averaged 15.5 minutes per game last season, stands 6-foot-7 and is the only returning player to see a full season for the Pirates in 2012-13. Head Coach Jason Kline overhauled his backcourt, expecting at least five guards to compete for playing time, including Xavielle Brown, a 6-foot-2 all-state freshman from Fort Wayne Indiana, and Nigel Van oostrum, a 6-foot-5 point guard that transferred from Franklin Pierce.
The Pirates also added two big bodies, one freshman and one from the junior college ranks. Torr Woodhouse, a 6-foot-8 junior from Cambridge, New Zealand, joins the Pirates from Southeast (Neb.) Community College, while 6-foot-11 center Ioannis Kotsanos, who prepped at St. Ignatious in Spartanburg, S.C., joins Park from Thessaloniki, Greece.
Harris-Stowe State University finished in a second-place tie with Missouri Baptist in 2011-12, and the Hornets will begin the year picked to finish fourth in the AMC behind one of the league's top front-courts. Kevin Kramer, a 6-foot-7 senior who averaged 7.9 points per game, leads the HSSU forwards, along with Jordan Loveless, a 6-foot-5 bruiser who averaged 9.4 points as a junior and Dallis Johnson, who played half a season for head coach Phillip Hunt and averaged 7.7 points per game. HSSU also brings back AMC Freshman of the Year Wayne Brown, a starter in the Hornets 2011-12 backcourt.
William Woods returns five contributors from 2011-12 after tying for fourth place with Park. Logan Decker, a first-team all-conference honoree, averaged 15 points last season for the Owls and Jonathan Nutt joins Decker as one of the league's top guard combos, brigning back 11 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. Hannibal-LaGrange University follows WWU, earning the sixth position in the poll behind three returners that made an impact last season.
The Trojans get both Arii Meuel (10.8 ppg) and Jurgen Lico (8.8 ppg) back from last season in the backcourt, and Abraham Arinyakono leads HLG's forwards in 2012-13 after averaging 6.7 points per game last season.
The AMC's newest member is picked seventh in the preseason poll, as Lyon College earned 26 points after a 2-15 finish last season in the TranSouth Athletic Conference. Devonte Young, a 6-foot-1 guard from Beebe, Ark., leads the Scots into 2012-13 after averaging 9.4 points per game last season. Kevin Jenkins' squad also brings back Slater Belew, a 6-foot-8 forward who averaged 8.9 points last season, and Kendall Leeks, a wing player who was on the TSAC's all-freshman team last season and averaged 8.6 points per game.
Williams Baptist is picked eighth in the AMC in 2012-13, bringing back the AMC's top scorer from a year ago, Kyle Harvey, who averaged 17.2 points per game as a junior. Zabian Sanders joins Harvey in the Eagles' backcourt, bringing back 10.9 points per game, and 6-foot-6 Chase Norwood will help the Eagles in the paint, averaging 7.2 points per game last season.
The final team in the poll is a first-year program, Benedictine University at Springfield, which will play its first-ever season of collegiate basketball under first-year head coach Ian McKeithen. The Bulldogs' eight-man rotation will include five juniors, a sophomore and two freshmen.