San Antonio – The St. Mary’s men’s basketball team has been picked third in the Heartland Conference preseason poll, the league announced Tuesday.

Arkansas-Fort Smith was picked first, while Texas A&M International came in at No. 2. The poll was voted on by the conference’s head coaches and sports information directors.

The Rattlers, fresh off a run to last year’s Heartland tournament, enter the 2011-12 season with high expectations after finishing 15-12 last season. They were 7-5 in Heartland Conference play, finishing in a tie for third place in the league standings.

St. Mary’s returns three starters from last year’s team, including seniors Ray Marshall (El Paso, Texas) and Lamb Autrey (Cibolo, Texas) and big man Kevin Kotzur, a redshirt junior from La Vernia, Texas.

Kotzur led the Rattlers in scoring (17.9 points per game) and rebounding (8.3 boards per game) a year ago, and enters this season with a chance to chase down St. Mary’s history over the next two seasons.

His career scoring average of 16.7 ranks fourth all-time in school history, and his 952 career points puts him on pace to have a shot to challenge the program’s scoring record of 2,246 points, set by Doug Williams in 1970. His 473 career rebounds also puts him on pace to challenge the school’s rebounding mark of 960, set by Elliott Henderson in 1993.

St. Mary’s is currently slated to open the season against Incarnate Word at 6 p.m. on Sat., Nov. 19 at Bill Greehey Arena.

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