Hilltoppers picked to win C-USA, Bassey and Hollingsworth named to all-preseason team

WKU freshman center Charles Bassey (23) slams home a dunk over North Texas Zachary Thomas (24) in day two of the C-USA Tournament at the Ford Center at The Star march 14 in Frisco, Texas. Bassey accumulated 9 points, 8 rebounds and 4 blocks in the 67-51 Hilltopper victory. 

Elliott Wells

The WKU men’s basketball team was picked to finish first in the league by a vote of the 14 Conference USA head coaches for the second consecutive year, the league office announced in its annual preseason poll on Thursday.

The Hilltoppers received 13 of the 14 first-place votes after posting an 11-7 record in C-USA play a season ago. Texas-El Paso was the only other program to receive a first-place vote.

WKU finished third in the regular season standings and advanced to the C-USA Tournament championship game in 2018-19 before falling 62-56 to Old Dominion.

League coaches also selected junior guard Taveion Hollingsworth and sophomore center Charles Bassey as Preseason All-Conference Team members, marking the second straight year in which WKU has garnered multiple preseason all-conference selections.

Last preseason, Hollingsworth and Auburn graduate transfer Desean Murray were named to the C-USA Preseason All-Conference Team.

Hollingsworth was a Third Team All-C-USA selection as a sophomore, averaging 14.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.2 steals in 36.8 minutes per game a season ago.

The 6-foot-2, 165-pound guard from Lexington was also named to the C-USA Championship All-Tournament Team in March. He has started all 72 games of his college career and needs just four points to reach 1,000 for his career.

Bassey was named C-USA Freshman and Defensive Player of the Year in 2018-19, becoming just the second player in C-USA history to win both awards in the same season.

The Lagos, Nigeria, native also earned a First-Team All-C-USA selection by averaging 14.6 points, 10 rebounds and 2.4 blocks, while shooting 62.7% from the field, 45% from the 3-point line and 76.9% from the free-throw line.

Bassey, one of five national finalists for the 2019 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year award, returned to WKU on May 29 after withdrawing from the NBA Draft pool. The 6-foot-11, 230-pound center will aim to improve his pro prospects by posting another dominant season on the Hill.

WKU will be in action at Hilltopper Hysteria, the annual tip-off event for the WKU men’s and women’s basketball programs, in Diddle Arena at 6 p.m. on Thursday.

After Hilltopper Hysteria, WKU will host its first exhibition game against Kentucky State at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 2 . The Hilltoppers will open their regular season just three days later on Nov. 5 when Tennessee Tech visits Diddle Arena at 7 p.m.

Reporter Elliott Wells can be reached at [email protected] Follow Elliott on Twitter at @ewells5.