October 26, 2016

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – In a preseason poll of the league’s head coaches and sports information directors, the University of Tennessee at Martin women’s basketball team has been selected to finish second in the Ohio Valley Conference as announced at the conference’s annual media day. The Skyhawks picked up one first place vote while wrapping up 220 points overall. Senior Jessy Ward was named to the league’s preseason All-OVC squad.

The voting panel picked Belmont as the preseason favorites while Eastern Kentucky’s Jalen O’Bannon was tabbed the league’s Preseason Player of the Year. O’Bannon and Ward were joined on the Preseason All-OVC team by Ke’Shunan James (Murray State), Kylee Smith (Belmont), Jayda Johnson (Tennessee State), Sally McCabe (Belmont), Darby Maggard (Belmont), Bri Mitchell (Southeast Missouri), Brianna McQueen (Morehead State) and I’mani Davis (Tennessee State).

UT Martin is coming off a 22-10 season after posting the team’s third consecutive OVC regular season title with a 14-2 league mark. The Skyhawks would notch the program’s sixth consecutive postseason appearance with a berth in the Women’s NIT where the team posted its first postseason victory since 1999 with a victory over Memphis in the first round.

The Skyhawks enter the season under the direction of two-time reigning OVC Coach of the Year who not only ranks as the program’s all-time winningest coach but currently ranks seventh in league history. McMillan and the Skyhawks will return two starters from last year’s squad in Ward and Emanye Robertson while returning OVC All-Newcomer Myah Taylor and junior Shy Copney back into the fold. Along with the four players who return with a season or more under their belts, the Skyhawks will welcome back two players from injuries, two transfers and five newcomers.

Ward returns for her third and final year in a Skyhawk uniform after ranking as one of the program’s all-time prolific three-point threats. The sharpshooter followed All-Newcomer honors as a sophomore with All-OVC accolades as a junior after averaging 13.0 points, 2.1 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.1 steals in 30.3 minutes per game. She scored 20 points or more on six occasions while notching 20 games in double figures. Arguably the best game of her career came against North Dakota where she tallied a career-high 29 points while knocking down seven three-pointers.

A native of Clarksville, Ward ranked seventh in the country in three-point field goals made (104) and three-point field goals per game (3.25). She posted 10 games with five made three-pointers or more, including a pair of contest with seven three-pointers made. Her 104 made three-pointers in 2015-16 finished just one shy of the program’s single-season record while moving her into fourth all-time with 191.

The 2016-17 campaign kicks off on Monday, Nov. 7 when UT Martin plays host to Christian Brothers in the Elam Center for an exhibition affair with a 5:30 p.m. tipoff. The Skyhawks will then officially open the regular season on Friday, Nov. 11 when they play host to nationally ranked foe Louisville with tipoff scheduled for 5:30 p.m.

2016-17 OVC Women’s Basketball Predicted Order of Finish

1.            Belmont (21 first-place votes) - 241

2.            UT Martin (One first-place vote) - 220

3.            Eastern Kentucky (Two first-place votes) - 190

4.            SIUE - 160

5.            Murray State - 146

              Southeast Missouri - 146

7.            Tennessee State - 138

8.            Jacksonville State - 90

9.            Austin Peay - 82

10.         Morehead State - 75

11.         Tennessee Tech - 70

12.         Eastern Illinois - 26

(*Schools were not allowed to rank their own team. 11 points awarded for a first-place vote, 10 for second, etc.)

2016-17 Preseason All-Ohio Valley Conference Women’s Basketball Team

Jalen O'Bannon, Eastern Kentucky

Ke'Shunan James, Murray State

Kylee Smith, Belmont

Jayda Johnson, Tennessee State

Sally McCabe, Belmont

Darby Maggard, Belmont

Jessy Ward, UT Martin

Bri Mitchell, Southeast Missouri

Brianna McQueen, Morehead State

I'mani Davis, Tennessee State

Preseason OVC Player of the Year: Jalen O'Bannon, Eastern Kentucky

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