Ninth-year coach David Moe returns his entire backcourt, led by 6-foot-5 Jeremiah Box, who averaged 10.9 points and led the Hornets with 40 steals, and leading scorer Lamar Wilbern, a 6-2 guard who averaged 15.9 points and 7.1 rebounds.
Fort Hays State
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The Tigers made their first MIAA Tournament appearance last season and return three starters, including 6-6 All-MIAA forward Tim Peintner (12.3 points, 7.1 rebounds) and 6-4 guard Corbin Kuntzsch (10 points, 5.6 rebounds). Peintner and Kuntzsch won a Class 3A title at Scott City in 2006.
Longtime coach Gene Iba announced in September that he's retiring after this season, having led the Gorillas to five NCAA Division II Tournament appearances. Iba, 68, is 252-154 in 14 seasons at Pittsburg State and has a career record of 478-357.
It could be a rebuilding year for the Ichabods and coach Bob Chipman with 10 new players on the roster, led by Butler Community College transfer Maurice Colter, a 5-10 guard who was an All-Jayhawk West pick last season. Washburn's top high school recruit was 6-8 forward Bobby Chipman — the coach's son — who averaged 17.2 points and 9.4 rebounds for Washburn Rural last season.
The Hornets are ranked No. 7 in the preseason NCAA Division II poll and return the league's top backcourt in All-MIAA selection Cassondra Boston and Sophia Lenard, an All-MIAA defensive pick. Boston averaged 14.9 points last season.
Fort Hays State
The Tigers suffered a big blow before the season even started when Wichita State transfer Jacie Hoyt was lost for year with a knee injury. Senior center Erica Biel averaged a double-double last season with 15.9 points and 11 rebounds and was also an all-defensive pick with 2.8 blocks.
Former Heights and Barton County coach Lane Lord led the Gorillas to their first 20-win season in 10 years last season with the help of Division I transfer Nicole McCombs, a 6-1 center from Drexel who averaged 15.7 points and 7.2 rebounds.
Washburn's top returning scorer is 6-foot-2 post Dayna Rodriguez (7.5 points, 4.1 rebounds) and the Ichabods will be hard-pressed to replace an All-MIAA backcourt of Janice Bright and Jessica Mainz, arguably the top defensive player in the league over the last three seasons.