IRVING, Texas — Justin Johnson has been named to the 2016-17 Conference USA Men’s Basketball Preseason All-Conference Team, while WKU has been picked to finish third in the league, as announced Thursday by the league office.
Johnson, a 6-foot-7 junior forward from Hazard, Ky., is WKU’s first preseason all-conference selection since George Fant and T.J. Price both made the list in the Hilltoppers’ inaugural season in C-USA in 2014-15.
Johnson was a steady force for the Hilltoppers during the 2015-16 season, appearing in 34 games with 26 starts. He finished the campaign averaging 14.9 points and 7.9 rebounds per contest, becoming the first Hilltopper to lead the program in both categories since Derrick Gordon in 2011-12.
Johnson shot 60.2 percent from the field as a sophomore, ranking third in C-USA and in the top 20 in the nation. He also ranked sixth in C-USA in rebounding and 14th in scoring.
Johnson’s 507 points scored last season were the seventh-most ever by a WKU sophomore. He needs 344 points to reach 1,000 for his career.
WKU was projected by the league’s coaches to finish third this season behind UAB, the reigning C-USA regular-season champion, and Middle Tennessee, the defending C-USA Tournament champ.
It’s the highest the Hilltoppers have been picked to finish since they joined C-USA, and it’s their highest projection overall since being tabbed to win the Sun Belt Conference before the 2013-14 campaign.
WKU kicks off its season Friday, Oct. 14 with its annual Hilltopper Hysteria event, presented by Hughes Supply, starting at 6 p.m. at E.A. Diddle Arena. The Hilltoppers open their schedule Nov. 1 with a home exhibition against Campbellsville, while the regular-season opener will be Nov. 12 at home against Alabama State.
In addition to Justin Johnson, the Hilltoppers welcome many new faces to the roster this season, including immediate-impact graduate transfer guards Que Johnson, Junior Lomomba and Pancake Thomas.
They also return two other seniors, forwards Ben Lawson and Anton Waters, and add the services of Tennessee transfer forward Willie Carmichael, a redshirt sophomore.
The squad will take its guidance from first-year coach Rick Stansbury, who boasts 293 victories and a career home winning percentage of better than 80 percent in his 14 years at the helm at Mississippi State.
The Hilltoppers are 573-162 all-time at Diddle Arena and are one of the nation’s most storied programs. WKU ranks third in NCAA history in regular-season league titles (42), seventh in 20-win seasons (43), ninth in all-time winning percentage (.663) and is tied for 16th in all-time wins (1,737).
2016-17 Preseason All-C-USA Team
Erik McCree, Charlotte, senior forward
Jon Elmore, Marshall, junior guard
Ryan Taylor, Marshall, senior forward
Giddy Potts, Middle Tennessee, junior guard
Reggie Upshaw Jr., Middle Tennessee, senior forward
Jeremy Combs, North Texas, junior forward
Marcus Evans, Rice, sophomore guard
Chris Cokley, UAB, junior forward
William Lee, UAB, junior forward
Justin Johnson, WKU, junior forward
2016-17 Preseason C-USA Poll (first-place votes in parentheses)
1. UAB (10)
2. Middle Tennessee (4)
5. Old Dominion
7. Louisiana Tech
10. North Texas
12. Florida Atlantic
13. Southern Miss
Season Tickets Now Available: Season tickets for WKU Hilltopper Basketball begin at just $99 per person and are now on sale through the WKU Ticket Office. Fans can take advantage of the “Big Red Family Plan,” which includes four reserved seats in Diddle Arena Section 201 for just $340 total. Call 1-800-5-BIG-RED or visit WKUSports.com to lock in tickets today.
How to follow the Hilltoppers: For complete information on WKU Hilltopper Basketball, follow the team’s social media channels, @WKUBasketball on Twitter, @WKUBasketball on Instagram, and WKU Basketball on Facebook.