The Radford University women’s basketball team was selected to finish atop the Big South Conference in the 2019-20 preseason poll. Sydney Nunley and Khiana Johnson garnered recognition being placed on the First and Second Teams respectively.
The Highlanders received the most first-place votes at six, a tally voted on by the league’s head coaches. Radford’s total points in the poll were 113. Hampton tallied several first-place votes for a total of 104 points, as the conference’s runner-up. UNC Asheville and Campbell also received first-place votes.
“It is an honor to be selected as the preseason favorite by your coaching peers,” said head coach Mike McGuire. “It is certainly a position our program prepares for and we expect to compete for conference championships each season.”
“We have a strong core of returners from last year’s championship team that should help us prepare for the conference race this year,” McGuire said. At the same time, this is a new team and we have several new faces in the program this year. This team will have to mesh and grow throughout their journey in order to compete for a conference championship. We will work hard to accept this challenge and use it as a positive all season long.”
Nunley, the Second Team All-Big South and three-time Big South Player of the Week selection, was rewarded for her dominance in the paint last season. The West Virginia native played in 29 games, starting in 22 of them. She averaged a near double-double at 10.3 points and 9.5 rebounds over the course of 24.5 minutes per game. In the Big South, she ranked second in rebounds per game, second in blocked shots per game, third in offensive rebounds per game and third in defensive rebounds per game.
Ninley concluded the 2018-19 campaign with 267 rebounds, 47 blocks, 28 assists and 13 steals. Joining the 500-career rebound club, she also registered 12 double-doubles including a stretch when she notched seven in a row. She scored a season–high 22 points on several occasions and pulled down 13 rebounds against Maryland in the NCAA Tournament.
Nunley “had a breakout season especially during Big South play last year. She really stepped up and showed what she is capable of doing,” McGuire said. “Sydney is a tremendous presence for us on both ends of the floor and is a unique post player in the Big South. Her career hasn’t been an easy one due to injuries, but I am excited that she is primed to lead us in her senior season. She has persevered, shown tremendous resiliency and has fought for everything here at Radford. I am looking forward to watching her play in her last season,” McGuire said.
Johnson joined her teammate on the Second Team All-Big South last season. She tallied career highs in various categories including points per game at 11, assists per game at 3.6, rebounds per game at 2.3 and 35.1 minutes per game, which was the fourth most in the conference.
In the Big South, Johnson ranked fourth in total assists at 118 and fifth in assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.2. She scored in double figures in 23 games, including a career high 19 points at Campbell. She also notched her first career double-double against USC Upstate with 16 points and 10 assists.
Johnson “has fantastic play–making abilities, and her speed is a game changer for us,” McGuire said. “Khiana has worked tirelessly to grow as a player, competitor and leader throughout her career at Radford. Her role has gradually increased each season, and I expect nothing less from her in her senior season. She had a terrific off-season and is ready to elevate her game as a senior. It will be fun to watch her play this year.”
2019-20 Women’s Basketball Preseason Poll: 1) Radford (6), 113 votes
2) Hampton (3), 104 votes
3) UNC Asheville (1), 94
4) Campbell (1), 91
5) Gardner-Webb, 86
6) High Point, 66
7) Winthrop, 47
8) Presbyterian, 43
9) Charleston Southern, 32
10) Longwood, 26
11) USC Upstate, 24
Preseason All-Conference Team, First-Team: Ashley Bates, Hampton (Preseason Player of the Year); Carley Plentovich, Gardner-Webb; Sonora Dengokl, UNC Asheville; Sydney Nunley, Radford; and Dayna Rouse, Longwood.
All-Conference Second Team: Khiana Johnson, Radford; Laren VanArsdale, Hampton; Kacie Hall, Presbyterian; ShyAnne Tuelle, Campbell; and Hayley Barber, Campbell.