10/06/10 — Trojans ranked 25th in preseason

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Trojans ranked 25th in preseason

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on October 6, 2010 1:47 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- The respect is appreciated.

And a seventh consecutive appearance in the NCAA Division II Bulletin's men's top 25 preseason basketball poll is considered a good honor.

But Mount Olive College hasn't proved anything ... yet.

"I was a little shocked," said third-year Trojans head coach Joey Higginbotham. "It just shows the respect where our program is and a lot of it is based on last year. It's exciting to be ranked again, but we haven't earned anything yet."

The Trojans are No. 25 and just one of two Southeast Region teams to gain acknowledgement from a panel of voters nationwide. MOC returns three starters from last year's team which captured its third consecutive Conference Carolinas regular-season championship and advanced to the Southeast Regional.

Two-time all-conference performer Craig Hayes finished among the league leaders in scoring (14.5 points), rebounds (7.2) and field-goal percentage. Record-setting point guard Derek Staton, the only Trojan to start every game last season, dished out 5.6 assists per game a year ago.

Six-foot-7 junior forward Aleks Mitrovic started in 21 games last season and shot 55.3 percent from the field.

"It's going to be an interesting year and we have a challenge in front of us with the players we lost to graduation," said Higginbotham, who has a 43-16 career mark at his alma mater. "It's a new year and a new team, and we'll do some different things. We just have to plug in and go to work every day."

Higginbotham earned the NABC Division II Southeast Region coach-of-the-year award last season.

Mount Olive tips off its 2010-11 campaign Nov. 15 against in-state rival Lenoir-Rhyne and plays host to the 45th annual Pickle Classic in mid-November. The Trojans open conference play Nov. 30 at archrival Barton College.