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Coker men host Carson-Newman in opener
COLLEGE BASKETBALL

Coker men host Carson-Newman in opener

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HARTSVILLE, S.C. - The Coker University men's basketball team is ready to start its 2020-21 campaign, in the team's second season under coach Jarred Merrill.

The Cobras open at home Saturday against Carson-Newman at the DeLoach Center. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m., with video and live stats available at www.cokercobras.com.

Coker University will not be allowing outside fans to basketball games at this time.

During Merrill's first season in 2019-20, the Cobras improved their win total with seven wins, including six in the South Atlantic Conference.

"We're trying to continue to elevate our kids and the program to new levels," Merrill said. "We improved our win total a season ago, and we continue to understand that this is a process."

Coker returns its top three scorers from a season ago in Chandler Lindsey (13.4 PPG), Malcolm Kennedy (11.2 PPG) and Dakota Jennings (8.4 PPG), while Jennings also returns as the team's leading rebounder from a season ago at 5.4 RPG. In total, the Cobras return six players from 2019-20.

Merrill also spoke highly of his incoming recruiting class of seven players, made up of four transfers and three true freshmen.

"We have a bunch of high-character kids coming in," he said. "They fit into our system well in how they play the game. We've found some kids that can really shoot the basketball."

Merrill noted that the returning players and the new players have gelled together nicely on and off the floor.

"These young men are going to step in and help us from both a shooting standpoint and a leadership standpoint," Merrill said. "They've been able to mesh and connect with the kids that we have, and they're all going to do a great job for us."

After Saturday's opener, the Cobras host No. 3 Lincoln Memorial on Tuesday and then travel to South Carolina for a Division I exhibition Wednesday.

Coker ends the regular season with trips to Newberry (Feb. 24) and Carson-Newman (Feb. 27), before the South Atlantic Conference tournament begins on Mar. 3 at Timmons Arena on the campus of Furman University.

"Our toughest stretch of schedule is what we start with," Merrill said. "Carson-Newman comes here, followed by the No. 3 team in the country in Lincoln Memorial and a Division I game against South Carolina, we'll really be tested. Every stretch in the SAC is a beast."

Merrill also discussed how he and his coaching staff have grown from their first season going into year two.

"I can't speak highly enough of Elvis Kisonas and Ron Apke," he said. "How they took the reins and managed things last year, they're both going to be great head coaches one day and they definitely proved that."

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