Team preview: Eastern Kentucky

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(Information in this team report is as of October 1.)

Jeff Neubauer has his first season as a head coach and his first up-close-and-personal look at the OVC behind him.

How was his first trip through the OVC?

"The one thing I found was the league was much more talented and athletic than I imagined," he said. "Most of the teams in the conference had really talented players."
Neubauer, former top assistant to John Beilein at West Virginia, took over a program that was put on stable ground by Travis Ford, who was hired by Massachusetts before the 2005-06 season.

Ford built the program into a winner in his five years in Richmond. He led the Colonels to their first NCAA Tournament in 26 years, and his 22 victories in 2004-05 were the most in school history.

This year, Neubauer must replace three integral players from Ford's NCAA Tournament team -- guards Matt Witt and Jason McLeish and low post Alonzo Hird. They were the team's top three scorers last season, averaging a combined 44.2 points.

"Our team will have a totally different personality and a whole new look this year," Neubauer said.

McLeish, a 6-0 shooting guard, was chosen to the All-OVC first team and Witt, a 6-0 point guard, was on the second team.

McLeish was fourth in the OVC in scoring (17.8 ppg) and in league games was second in scoring (19.4 ppg) and second in three-point shooting percentage (.494). He led the team in steals with 43 and hit the 20-point mark 11 times last season, including a 29-point game in the Colonels victory over Tennessee Tech on Jan. 5. He improved his scoring average by nine points over his junior season.

Witt (18.5 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 4.4 apg) departed as the leading scorer in school history with 1,832 points and ranked No. 1 in three-pointers (283) and was second in assists (630).

He started 109 games in his career and was third in the OVC in scoring and fifth in assists last season. In OVC games, Witt averaged 18.3 points and 4.5 assists.

"We're not going to try to replace Witt and McLeish with two players," Neubauer said. "We'll have more balance."