Appalachian State has now turned the keys over to head coach Dustin Kerns and his staff, as he comes from a Presbyterian program secured a winning record of 20-16 last year and an appearance in the CIT.
After the Mountaineers finished 11-22 last year and 6-12 in the Sun Belt, Appalachian State returns quality talent that has a ton of experience as well as a few new names that could step up early on. With their only loss being guard Ronshad Shabazz (18.3 points per game last year), Kerns could have a balanced roster that can get it done on the offensive and defensive side of the ball.
Let’s dive into what the Mountaineers have this year.
Key Returning Starters
Guard 6’2 Justin Forrest: Appearing in 30 games and starting in 29 of them last year, Forrest is the top returning scorer from last year’s team after losing Shabazz. Averaging a career-high 16.2 points per game, Forrest’s numbers could continue to rise. He did improve his shooting last year and now has a ton of experience under his belt. Last year, he shot nearly 41 percent from the floor and 36 percent from three (64 made 3-pointers) and will be looked at as the top-scoring prospect this year for the Mountaineers.
Guard 6’3 Adrian Delph: With the loss of Shabazz as well, Delph will be looked at to carry more of a scoring load for the Mountaineers and he certainly has the talent to do just that. Starting 19 games last year as a freshman, Delph shot 45 percent from the field last year and ended up averaging 7.1 points and 2.8 rebounds per game. But he can have a major impact in several other areas, just like he did at Kings Mountain, in which he averaged over 20 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 5.3 assists. Look for him to have a major impact and be part of a solid two-guard duo this year.
Forward 6’9 Isaac Johnson: Coming off his best season, senior Johnson brings a lot of intrigue to the table for the Mountaineers, especially if he can continue to build off a fantastic junior year. Playing and starting in all 31 games for Appalachian State, Johnson averaged a career-high 10.0 points on 51.2 percent shooting, while also being ranked second in the Sun Belt with 8.6 rebounds per game.
Important pieces to watch:
Forward 6’9 Hunter Seacat: Seacat has the experience, playing in 22 games as a sophomore and starting 31 games last year. The power forward brings leadership to the table, as well as positive minutes, as he shot 56 percent from the field last year. He may not be the biggest weapon offensively but he can be efficient when the opportunities arrive for him.
Forward 6’8 James Lewis Jr.: Lewis is a new name to the program but a North Carolina native. Before Appalachian State, Lewis played at UT Chattanooga, where he appeared in 27 games, starting 21 of them. Lewis can easily bring firepower down low for the Mountaineers, as he averaged 7.3 points and 5.4 rebounds at Chattanooga, shooting nearly 51 percent from the floor. The redshirt sophomore could really be a double-double type prospect if the minutes allow him but no matter what, you are going to get a lot of positive production from him.
Guards O’Showen Williams and Michael Bibby both have carved out roles for themselves off the bench, as they look to provide depth as well as experience for the Mountaineers.
Guard 6’1 J.C. Tharrington: Tharrington, a North Carolina native, could certainly earn some minutes this year in hopes of providing depth as well. Tharrington brings an elite IQ to the table, as well as a fundamentally sound basketball player. His understanding for the game is impressive at a young age and knows how to make the right play, as well as knock down shots.
Guard 6’5 Donovan Gregory: Gregory brings a strong, athletic presence IMMEDAITELY to the floor; he showed much of that all throughout high school at Carmel Christian. The high-rising guard excels in transition and will look to throw it down. He has improved his outside game and rebounds the ball well as a guard.
Forward 6’7 Kendall Lewis: Lewis’ length is intriguing and how he develops at the collegiate level will be one to watch. In high school, he averaged 18.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game during his senior season at Shiloh. He also has the ability to step out and knock down shots.