Willamette is Seventh in NWC Men's Basketball Preseason Poll

Bearcats Return Four Starters

By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director, (503) 370-6110

SALEM, ORE. -- The Willamette University men's basketball team is picked to finish seventh in the Northwest Conference in 2010-11, according to the NWC Preseason Poll, as determined in voting by the league's head coaches. The Bearcats concluded the 2009-10 season with a 9-16 overall record, including a 6-10 mark (6th place tied) in the NWC.

Whitworth University is the favorite to repeat as the NWC champion. The Pirates received all nine first place votes and 90 points in the poll after earning a 16-0 record in the NWC and going 26-3 overall last season.

David Riley, a senior forward, will lead the Pirates. Riley earned First Team All-NWC honors last year for the second season in a row.

Linfield College is listed second in the poll with 62 points. The Wildcats finished second in the NWC last year with a 10-6 record and were 12-13 overall. Senior post K.C. Wiser, a First Team All-NWC selection in 2009-10, is the Wildcats' top returning player.

Lewis & Clark College follows in third place in the poll with 58 points. Guards James Hollins and Kelly Edwards both earned Second Team All-NWC recognition a year ago.

Fourth place in the poll is a three-way tie. Teams involved in the tie are George Fox University, Pacific Lutheran University and Whitman College. GFU was 9-7 in the NWC in 2009-10, while PLU went 7-9 and Whitman was 6-10.

George Fox features senior point guard Stephen Wiseley. Pacific Lutheran has senior wing Kyle McTaggert and Whitman will rely on junior guard Brandon Shaw.

Willamette is next in the Preseason Poll in seventh place. The Bearcats received 35 points to stay in front of the University of Puget Sound, which is listed eighth with 34 points. Pacific University rounds out the poll in ninth with 10 points.

The Bearcats will be led by four returning starters. They are senior guard Marcus Holmes (Seattle, WA/Garfield HS), senior guard Robbie Kunke (Clackamas, OR/Clackamas HS), junior wing/post Taylor Mounts (Kailua, HI/Iolani School) and junior wing Ryan Meehan (Beaverton , OR/Beaverton HS/MSU-Billings.

Three of the returning starters averaged in double figures in 2009-10. Mounts provided the Bearcats with 14.2 points per game, while Meehan averaged 11.5 points per contest. Holmes contributed 11.0 points per game. Kunke supplied Willamette with 6.3 assists per game to lead the NWC and also averaged 6.5 points.

Although four starters are back, the Bearcats graduated Cameron Mitchell (Post, Portland, OR/Grant HS), the NWC's leading scorer and rebounder last season. Mitchell led the NWC with 21.1 points and 12.5 rebounds per game. He was named First Team All-NWC for the second year in a row and was chosen First Team All-Region by D3hoops.com.

Puget Sound's top returning player is junior forward Kaleb Shelton. Pacific will be led by new head coach Tim Cleary.

Willamette is set to open the season on Tuesday, Nov. 16 at Western Washington University. Tipoff in Bellingham, Wash., is scheduled for 7 p.m. (PST).

NWC Men's Basketball Poll (1st place votes in parentheses)
1. Whitworth (9), 90 points, 26-3 overall, 16-0 NWC in 2009-10
2. Linfield, 62 points, 12-13 overall, 10-6 NWC
3. Lewis & Clark, 58 points, 10-16 overall, 9-7 NWC
4. George Fox, 42 points, 13-14 overall, 9-7 NWC
4. Pacific Lutheran, 42 points, 9-14 overall, 7-9 NWC
4. Whitman, 42 points, 12-13 overall, 6-10 NWC
7. Willamette, 35 points, 9-16 overall, 6-10 NWC
8. Puget Sound, 34 points, 9-16 overall, 5-11 NWC
9. Pacific, 10 points, 8-17 overall, 4-12 NWC

Taylor Mounts is back for his junior season with the Bearcats. He averaged 14.2 points and 6.7 rebounds per game in 2009-10.

Taylor Mounts is back for his junior season with the Bearcats. He averaged 14.2 points and 6.7 rebounds per game in 2009-10.