CWU Men's Hoops Picked to win GNAC - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

CWU Men's Hoops Picked to win GNAC

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SPOKANE, Wash. - With two full-time and two part-time starters returning from last season, the Central Washington University men's basketball team has been picked to win the 2008-09 Great Northwest Athletic Conference championship according to the preseason coaches poll, released Tuesday by the conference office.

The Wildcats, who finished 21-7 overall including a 15-3 GNAC record and qualified for the NCAA Division II tournament, received seven of nine first-place votes in the preseason coaches poll. Archrival Western Washington is picked to finish second and received the other two first-place votes.

Returning as starters for Central Washington this season are seniors Jake Beitinger (Port Orchard, Wash./South Kitsap HS) and Matt Penoncello (Moscow, Idaho). Also back are seniors Giovonne Woods (Lacey, Wash./River Ridge HS) and Johnny Spevak (Edgewood, Wash./Puyallup HS), both of whom started 15 or more games during the Wildcats' 2007-08 campaign.

Beitinger was tabbed a second team preseason All-American by The Sporting News in its preseason magazine, and is coming off a junior season in which he won GNAC Newcomer of the Year accolades and was a unanimous first team all-GNAC selection. Beitinger averaged team-highs of 14.8 points and 6.4 rebounds per game last season, while Penoncello also earned all-conference recognition, scoring 14.1 points and adding 5.2 rebounds per contest.

Woods (15 starts) was one of five Wildcat players to average 9.5 points or better last season, while Spevak (19 starts), who currently stars on the Central Washington football team and will not join the basketball squad until the conclusion of the gridiron season, averaged 7.2 points per game while ranking fourth on the team in rebounds and second in assists last year.

Also back for their senior seasons are seasoned veterans Colton Monti (Lacey, Wash./North Thurston HS) and Brandon Foote (Bellingham, Wash.). Monti is a three-year letterman who has been the Wildcats' backup point guard over the course of his career thus far. Foote was an impact transfer for CWU last winter, ranking fourth on the team in scoring (9.8 points per game) while coming off the bench in 23 of his 26 appearances.

A wealth of talented newcomers completes the Wildcats' roster this season, including a pair of Northwest Athletic Association of Community College (NWAACC) West Region all-stars in 5-foot-8 point guard Chris Scott (Las Vegas, Nev./Bonanza HS) and 6-foot-9 center Chris Sprinker (University Place, Wash./Curtis HS). Scott, who played at South Puget Sound CC and led the NWAACC with 9.5 assists per game last season, edged out Sprinker for region MVP honors. Sprinker played at Tacoma CC after beginning his career as a redshirt at Eastern Washington University, and averaged 17.5 points and a conference-leading 11.2 rebounds per game.

Also joining the Wildcats this winter are fellow JUCO transfers Jon Clift (Spokane, Wash./Joel E. Ferris HS) from Community Colleges of Spokane and Shane Miller (Moscow, Idaho) from Treasure Valley Community College. Two redshirts from last season's CWU squad -- Riley Sivak (Ellensburg, Wash.) and Ted Nelson (Hoquiam, Wash.) -- are back, while true freshman Ryan Snowden of Auburn, Wash., also joins the mix for 14th-year head coach Greg Sparling in 2008-09.

Following CWU and WWU in the coaches preseason poll are defending conference champion and national semifinalist Alaska Anchorage, as well as fellow regional qualifier Seattle Pacific in third and fourth, respectively. Northwest Nazarene, Saint Martin's, Western Oregon, Montana State Billings, and Alaska round out the poll.

Central Washington has an exhibition game slated for Friday, Nov. 7, against Team AnotherLevel at Nicholson Pavilion (7:30 p.m.). The Wildcats' regular-season opener is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 22, against Multnomah University of Portland, Ore.

2. Western Washington
3. Alaska Anchorage
4. Seattle Pacific
5. Northwest Nazarene
6. Saint Martin's
7. Western Oregon
8. Montana State Billings
9. Alaska

Director of Athletic Media Relations
Central Washington University
400 E University Way
MS 7570
Ellensburg, WA 98926-7570
Work: 509-963-1485
Cell: 509-859-4968
Fax: 509-963-2390