San Antonio – The St. Mary’s University men’s basketball team has been voted No. 1 in the Heartland Conference Preseason Poll, a distinction coach Jim Zeleznak was quick to point out won’t mean much once the games begin next month.
But, he conceded, “It is nice.”
The poll, voted on by conference coaches and sports information directors, was released Thursday. The Rattlers received six of 11 first-place votes.
“It’s a nice compliment that people think you’re going to be good,” Zeleznak said. “But unfortunately, that doesn’t help us execute, defend or rebound – all the things that go into winning games.”
The Rattlers, who return eight players from last year’s squad that went 17-13, open the season against the University of Central Missouri in the High Desert Classic in Las Vegas on Nov. 12.
In addition to being voted as the preseason No. 1, St. Mary’s forward/center Kevin Kotzur (So., La Vernia, Texas) and forward Gordon Ward (Sr., Galveston, Texas) were named to the Preseason All-Conference Team.
Last season, Kotzur was named NCAA Division II All-South Central Region by Daktronics Inc. after turning in one of the top seasons by any St. Mary’s freshman. He led the Rattlers with 15.7 points and 8.4 rebounds per game, while shooting 65.6 percent from the floor. His field-goal percentage was the second-highest single-season percentage in the program’s history.
Kotzur also was named last season the Heartland Conference Freshman of the Year and the Newcomer of the Year, in addition to piling up three Heartland Conference Player of the Week awards and being named first team All-Heartland Conference.
Ward started 22 games last season, averaging 6.0 points and 3.5 rebounds per contest. Ward is the Rattlers’ only senior.
St. Mary’s finished last season with a 17-13 record and finished as the runner-up in the Heartland Conference Tournament. They return eight players this year, including three starters.