AUGUSTA, GA. - For the second straight year, the Columbus State Cougars have been selected the preseason favorite to win the PBC Championship, according to a vote of the league’s 12 head coaches. The Cougars received six first-place votes and three second-place votes to secure the top spot. Defending PBC Champion Clayton State was second with three first-place votes while 2002 PBC Tournament Champion Augusta State was third with two first-place votes. Georgia College & State University, a tie between Kennesaw State and North Florida, Armstrong Atlantic State, USC Spartanburg, USC Aiken, Lander, Francis Marion and UNC Pembroke rounded out the voting.
Columbus State returns three starters from last season’s 19-9 team, but will have to replace their top two scorers. The scoring load will fall to senior forward Carmel Evans and junior forward Kamar Zachary, who combined for 13.9 points and 10.0 rebounds per game. CSU will be the first team out of the gate this year as they open the season at the Disney Tip-Off Classic on Nov. 15.
Clayton State came from nowhere in 2001-02 behind new head coach Gordon Gibbons to win their first PBC Championship. However, the Lakers have lost three starters from their championship team and will rely on the frontcourt duo of Jamal Johnson and Mike Phenizee if they are to repeat.
Augusta State has won the last two PBC Tournaments and the PBC north division for four straight years, but they may be the most changed team in the PBC this season. The Jaguars lost all five starters, including PBC Player of the Year Gary Boodnikoff, but do return five lettermen and a slew of talented newcomers.
Also new for the 2002-03 season are three new head coaches. Armstrong Atlantic State’s Jeff Burkhamer, UNC Pembroke’s Bryan Garmroth and USC Spartanburg’s Eddie Payne all make their Peach Belt debuts in November.