11/04/05 — Mount Olive men travel to UNC Wilmington for exhibition game Saturday

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Mount Olive men travel to UNC Wilmington for exhibition game Saturday

Published in Sports on November 4, 2005 1:59 PM

Don't look now, but "March Madness" is here. Actually, March Madness is still about four months away, but Mount Olive hoops season is under way.

Mount Olive opens its 2005-06 season Saturday as the Trojans travel to Wilmington, N.C., to take on Division I UNC-Wilmington in a men's basketball exhibition game. Tip-off is 7 p.m.

Mount Olive is coming off its greatest season in school history, posting a 29-5 record, winning the NCAA II East Regional and making its first-ever trip to the Elite Eight. Mount Olive won a share of the Carolinas-Virginia Athletics Conference regular season title with an 18-2 mark.

To say the Trojans enter this season with high expectations may be an understatement. Mount Olive is ranked in two preseason national top 10 polls. Street and Smith's Magazine ranks the Trojans at No. 5, while Division II Bulletin picks head coach Bill Clingan's squad at No. 7.

Mount Olive is also picked No. 1 in the CVAC Preseason Coaches' Poll.

Mount Olive returns four starters from last year's squad, as well as a "reserve" that Street and Smith's tabs as "perhaps the best sixth man in the nation" in 6-4 junior guard Elton Coffield, who was named Most Outstanding Player at the East Regional. Coffield averaged 17.6 points per game and was second on the team in minutes played, despite having come off the bench in 32 of 34 games last season.

While the Trojans' starting five hasn't yet been officially announced, Coffield dropped a hint whether or not he'll be coming off the bench again this season: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Goldsboro High School graduate Victor Young enters his senior season after finishing last year with a 23-point performance in the Trojans' Elite Eight contest. The 6-3 guard also earned All-Tournament honors at the East Regional.

Along with Young, Trojan returners include senior guards Melvin Creddle and Maurice Horton and junior forward Elijah Rouse. Junior forward Chris Bartley started 12 games last year and will again play a key role for the Trojans.

UNC-Wilmington posted a 19-10 record last season and is picked fifth in the Colonial Athletic Association preseason poll. Seahawk senior guard John Goldsberry was named the 2004-05 CAA Defensive Player of the Year.

Saturday's contest marks the third consecutive year the Trojans have played an exhibition game at UNCW. The Seahawks won the first two meetings.

Saturday's game is also the first of two exhibition contests for the Trojans. Mount Olive takes on Atlantic Coast Conference member North Carolina State next Friday at the RBC Center in Raleigh. Last year, the Trojans played an exhibition against eventual Division I national champion North Carolina.