HUNTSVILLE - The Sam Houston State men’s basketball team is set to begin preparing for its Southland Conference title defense when the nonconference portion of the schedule tips off Tuesday with a home matchup against Paul Quinn at 6:30 p.m. at Johnson Coliseum.

Bearkats head coach Jason Hooten has a solid group of returning players who make a strong nucleus to build around with the newcomers. Sam Houston State must replace three of their top four scorers from last season, including Southland Conference Player of the Year Cameron Delaney and his twin brother Josh Delaney, a third-team All-SLC selection, so Hooten added some transfers who can put points on the board. 

Guards

As a sophomore, Demarkus Lampley was the second-leading JUCO scorer in the country by averaging 26.6 points and six rebounds per game for Wallace State-Hanceville. He was also the leading scorer in the Alabama Community College Conference.

He shot 42.5 percent from behind the 3-point line and a conference-best 89.9 percent from the free-throw line. In addition to being selected as a NJCAA All-American, Lampley was named the 2019 ACCC/Region 22 Player of the Year, the ACCC North Division Player of the Year and was a first-team selection to both the All-ACCC North Division and All-Region 22 teams.

“He is a very good scorer with athleticism and toughness,” Hooten said. “As Lamp learns our defensive philosophy and the D1 level, he will be an immediate impact to our program.”

Dainan Swoope started the first five games as a senior for Elon last season before missing the rest of the campaign due to an injury. He averaged 8.0 points, 2.2 assists and 1.4 rebounds for the Phoenix.

The graduate transfer ranks 36th on the Elon all-time scoring list with 1,090 career points, is ninth in 3-pointers made (193), eighth in 3-point attempts (562) and 11th in assists (286). As a junior, Swoope played in all 32 games, making 31 starts and finished fourth on the team in scoring with 12.0 points per game, and he knocked down 64 3-pointers and scored more than 20 points in eight games, which led Elon.

“Dainan brings a plethora of Division I experience to our team and a great calming influence,” Hooten said. “He too has a great basketball IQ, and the ability to make shots at a high level.”

Terryonte Thomas was selected to the 10-man NJCAA All-Region 23 team as well as being chosen as a first-team member of the MACJC All-State/North squad after guiding East Mississippi Community College to the 2018-19 MACJC state championship, the program’s first since the 1930s, as a sophomore last season.

The 6-foot, 4-inch guard averaged 13.7 points per game and 4.6 rebounds while shooting 38 percent from 3. Thomas scored a career high 27 points against Shelton State last season.

“Terryonte gives our team a lot of flexibility being able to play multiple positions,” Hooten said, “His skill level and toughness can also be a great added dimension to our program.”

Freshman Pierce Hellums was a first-team all-district selection and team most valuable player as a senior at Concordia Lutheran in Tomball last season after averaging 17.6 points for the 36-3 Crusaders. He finished his career as Concordia Lutheran’s all-time leading scorer with an impressive 2,612 points in four seasons.

Hellums was voted district MVP his junior year and led his Crusader squad to a state championship with a stellar 43-1 overall record by averaging 20.5 points, four rebounds, 4.2 assists and 3.5 steals per game.

“We are very excited about Pierce and what the future holds,” Hooten said. “He brings a toughness and grit to our program and is a player that can also play multiple positions. He reminds me a lot of Josh Delaney as a freshman.”

Freshman guards Cade Kortan from College Station and DJ Kelley from Cantonment, Florida are taking a redshirt this season.

“DJ will spend this season as a redshirt and continue to improve his conditioning and learn our system, and Cade will spend this season as a redshirt and continue to improve his skill level, as well as getting acclimated with the Division I level,” Hooten said.

Forwards

Mark Tikhonenko played in eight games for North Texas last season as a redshirt freshman before missing the rest of the year due to a foot injury. He averaged 2.3 points and 1.8 rebounds per game for the Mean Green.

He scored a season-high nine points and grabbed four rebounds in a win over Texas A&M-Commerce on Nov. 14.

“Mark is a very skilled player that has played on the International level, as well as the Division I level,” Hooten said. “His basketball IQ and ability to stretch the defense will create mismatch opportunities.”