Published on January 13, 1999 by Matt Sullivan  

JACKSONVILLE, FLA. - Samford University's men's basketball team, fresh off its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance, was the overwhelming choice to repeat as it was picked first in the 1999-2000 TAAC Preseason Poll as voted on by the league's head coaches and sports information directors. The poll was released at the league's annual media day held Wednesday at the Radisson Riverwalk Hotel. Samford received 17 out of a possible 20 first-place votes for 213 points, easily outdistancing second-place Georgia State, which received 178 points and one first-place vote. Central Florida was picked to finish third with 166 points and two first place votes. Jacksonville University (128) was fourth and Stetson (118) fifth. Troy State (99), Mercer (70), Jacksonville State (65), Campbell (62) and Florida Atlantic (21) rounded out the standings.

"This is the best the league has been from top to bottom since I've been here," Samford head coach Jimmy Tillette said. "We're obviously going to be circled on everyone's calendar especially since every team has improved from last season."

Samford's Reed Rawlings, the 1999 TAAC Player-of-the-Year, was selected as the 1999-2000 Preseason Player-of-the-Year. The 6-foot-7 senior was joined by teammate Will Daniel, a second-team All-TAAC selection last season. Rounding out the Preseason All-Conference team were Kevin Morris of GSU, Calvin Slaughter of Jacksonville (Fla.) and D'Quarius Stewart of UCF. In the women's poll, Samford was picked to finish fifth after finishing 8-19 in its second year. The Bulldogs received 131 points to finish behind preseason favorite Campbell, which had 183 points and seven first-place votes. Jacksonville State was picked to finish second in the preseason poll receiving nine first-place votes and 180 points. The Lady Gamecocks were selected to win the TAAC Tournament that will be held March 8-11 at the Pelham Civic Complex. Defending champion UCF (142) was picked third, Georgia State (138) fourth and Samford. Troy State (102), Stetson (84), Mercer (55), Florida Atlantic (48) and first-year program Jacksonville University (37) rounded out the bottom five.

"Our goal when we started the program two years ago was to be one of the top teams in four or five years." Samford head coach Janet Cone said. "To be ranked fifth in our third year is probably where we should be." Samford returns all five starters off of last year's team, that dropped a 65-64 heartbreaking decision to JSU in the first round of the TAAC Tournament.

"Our team matured the most last season after that game," Cone said. "Losing at the last second had made this team more determined heading into this season."

Samford's Jodi Morris was picked to the All-Conference team after averaging 17.8 points and grabbing 7.3 rebounds per game. Other members of the preseason team include JSU's Lisa Baswell, the Preseason Player-of-the-Year, April Cromartie of Campbell, Cher Dyson of Stetson and Leslie McElrath of Georgia State.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.