CHARLOTTE, N.C. (www.BigSouthSports.com) – UNC Asheville senior forward Drew Pember (Knoxville, Tenn.) has been voted the 2022-23 Big South Conference Men’s Basketball Preseason Player of the Year by the league’s head coaches and media panel, it was announced this morning. Pember is the fifth UNC Asheville student-athlete to be voted Preseason Player of the Year, and the first since 2011-12.
In his first season in a Bulldog uniform in 2021-22, Pember was voted the Big South’s Defensive Player of the Year and was named First-Team All-Conference. Just the third UNC Asheville player to ever earn the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year award, Pember was a 2021-22 NABC Second-Team All-District selection, Hoops HD All-Conference and Defensive Player of the Year honoree, and a three-time Big South Player of the Week. He led Asheville in scoring (488 points), scoring average (15.7), free throw percentage (86.3), rebounding (205), and blocks (93 – 10th in the country), and ranked sixth nationally in blocks per game with a league-leading 3.0. Pember topped the 20-point mark nine times in 2021-22 with seven of those outings coming against Big South foes. His best performance of the season came in an overtime win at Radford where he netted 41 points and added 11 rebounds. Pember received 11 first-place votes and 166 total points in the voting to earn the top spot on the preseason All-Conference team.
2022-23 Big South Conference Men’s Basketball Preseason All-Conference Team
Drew Pember, UNC Asheville, Sr., F, 6-10, 212 (Knoxville, Tenn.)
Isaiah Wilkins, Longwood, Gr., G, 6-4, 220 (Winston-Salem, N.C.)
Jordan Gainey, USC Upstate, So., G, 6-4, 175, Tucson, Ariz.)
Zack Austin, High Point, R-So., F, 6-7, 201 (Winston-Salem, N.C.)
Cory Hightower, Winthrop, R-Sr., F, 6-7, 222 (Flint, Mich.)
DeShaun Wade, Longwood, Gr., G, 6-2, 200 (Virginia Beach, Va.)
Tajion Jones, UNC Asheville, Gr., G, 6-5, 210 (Oak Ridge, Tenn.)
Winston Hill, Presbyterian, 5th Yr., F, 6-7, 230 (Columbia, S.C.)
Kareem Reid, Gardner-Webb, Sr., F, 6-9, 205 (Queens, N.Y.)
Ricky Clemons, Campbell, Sr., G, 6-2, 210 (Raleigh, N.C.)
Wilkins was an All-Big South First-Team selection as well as the MVP of the Hercules Tires Big South Men’s Basketball Championship in 2022. He averaged 12.7 points in leading Longwood to its first league title and NCAA Tournament berth, and was the squad’s top rebounder a season ago with 6.0. Wilkins ranked third in the Big South with 1.6 steals per game.
Gainey was the Big South Co-Freshman of the Year in 2021-22 after averaging 13.8 points per game and finishing the season with a 47.1 field goal percentage — which included a 49.3 accuracy rate from beyond the arc (74-of-150). He chipped in 123 rebounds, 69 assists, 39 steals and 16 blocks on the year. During league play, Gainey ranked seventh in scoring at 16.3, sixth in field goal shooting (49.4) and first in three-point percentage (54.1).
Austin was the Big South Co-Freshman of the Year in 2021-22 as he nearly averaged a double-double with 14.4 points and a league-best 8.0 rebounds per game. He started all 32 games for HPU last season, and recorded at least one block or one steal in every game. Austin was the Big South’s leader in double-doubles (8), and ranked third in the conference with 2.2 blocked shots per contest.
Hightower earned Big South All-Tournament Team honors last March in helping the Eagles reach the Hercules Tires Big South Men’s Basketball Championship game. The team’s second-leading scorer in 2021-22 with 11.8 points, Hightower has more than 1,000 points and 500 rebounds during his time in the Big South. He had a team-high 5.5 rebounds per game (12th in the league) and drained 52 three-pointers.
The Preseason All-Conference Second-Team features an honorable mention All-Conference pick from last year (Wade), the Big South’s active leading career scorer (Jones – 1,466 points), the league’s fourth-leading rebounder from last season (Hill – 6.5), one of the conference’s top shot blockers (Reid) and a member of the 2021 Big South All-Tournament squad (Clemons).
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