BRENTWOOD, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee at Martin men’s basketball team was picked to finish sixth in the Ohio Valley Conference preseason media poll, the league announced this morning.
Coming off a school-record 22 victories and their second straight OVC Tournament championship appearance, the Skyhawks received 82 points in the poll. Each of the members of the top-five – Belmont (148 points), Murray State (138), Jacksonville State (132), Tennessee State (95) and Eastern Kentucky (91) – tallied a first-place vote in the media poll, which is in its fourth season. Tennessee Tech (80), Eastern Illinois (79), Morehead State (59), Austin Peay (48), Southeast Missouri (36) and SIUE (26) rounded out the preseason standings.
UT Martin head coach Anthony Stewart returns four players from last season’s squad, which shattered the single-season school record for points (2,693), field goals (966), rebounds (1,312) and assists (555). The Skyhawks are the only OVC program to win at least one postseason game in three consecutive seasons and are also one of two Division-I programs in Tennessee to post three straight 20-win seasons (alongside Belmont).
Senior guard Matthew Butler is UT Martin’s lone returning starter, as the 6-2, 185-pounder is coming off an OVC All-Newcomer mention. The Memphis, Tenn. native was the only Skyhawk to start in all 35 games last season, averaging 13.7 points per contest while knocking down 82 trifectas in 2016-17.
Redshirt junior forward Fatodd Lewis (6.6 points, 4.3 rebounds per game as the team’s sixth man), senior guard Kahari Beaufort (six starts, double-digit scoring in four games) and sophomore forward Mike Fofana (52.4 percent shooting, 85.7 percent free throw makes) also return for the Skyhawks in 2017-18.
Nine newcomers will also look to make an impact for UT Martin this season, eight of whom are upperclassmen. Delfincko Bogan, Dominique Williams and Lorenzen Wright, Jr. bring prior Division-I experience while Jerome Davis, Jailen Gill, Terrence Parker, Darius Thompson and Dalen Victor join the Skyhawks after successful junior college careers. Parrish Hewitt is the lone freshman to suit up for UT Martin in 2017-18 as the Skyhawks will look to reload for their fourth consecutive postseason appearance.
UT Martin will hold an intersquad “Blue vs. Orange Game” at the Kathleen and Tom Elam Center on Nov. 6 before officially opening its 67th season of basketball on Nov. 10 at Marshall.