One preseason outlet has tabbed Davidson senior forward Peyton Aldridge as the Larry Bird of the Atlantic 10 Conference.
Aldridge averaged 20.5 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists last season for the Wildcats and on Tuesday was named preseason all-league first team during Atlantic 10 media day at Capital One Arena, site of the conference tournament in March.
“Being the Larry Bird of the Atlantic 10, once again that is just great recognition. He is one of the greats to play the game. I don’t think I can live up to that,” Aldridge said with a smile Tuesday morning.
Davidson was predicted to finish sixth in the Atlantic 10 behind reigning champion Rhode Island, St. Bonaventure, Saint Joseph’s, VCU and Dayton in a poll by head coaches and selected media members that was released Tuesday.
“I don’t put any stock into it,” said Davidson coach Bob McKillop, starting his 29th season with the Wildcats. “It means nothing at this point.”
The Wildcats will have to replace guard Jack Gibbs, who averaged 22.1 points last season as a senior and is now playing in Belgium. But Gibbs is the only starter who didn’t return from last season.
“Jack is one of my best friends. It is a great loss,” said Aldridge, who like Gibbs is from Ohio. “He is a great player, but we have some young talent that is ready to step up.”
One of those players is freshman Kellan Grady, a Boston product who will start at point guard.
“That is something that doesn’t happen very often,” McKillop said of Grady’s inexperience. “He has earned that opportunity. We are delighted with his willingness to be coached and his work ethic.”
The Wildcats were 17-15 overall and 8-10 in the conference for an eighth-place finish last season.
With the loss of Gibbs, the Wildcats could be more inside oriented this season. Davidson also returns 6-foot-11 redshirt senior forward Will Magarity, who averaged 8.4 points last year.
“We always want to get the ball inside,” Aldridge said. “I believe we will stick to our game plan. Once again we are inside-out and ready to attack.”
Aldridge was one of five preseason all first-team players on hand for media day in the nation’s capital.
“It is a great accomplishment. I am truly blessed to receive this honor. But it is an individual award. We want to make some noise as a team,” he said.
McKillop is ready to turn over the leadership reins to Aldridge, who is 6-8.
“The guy who will be the quarterback of our program is Peyton, which is deservedly so,” McKillop said. “He is like that NFL quarterback in his second or third year. Now he is like that poised leader who is staying in the pocket and seeing all the receivers and avoiding the sack and making the game-winning drive.
“He is a confident young man with a great sense of humility.”
McKillop said there will be three keys to the season: the response of the seniors, the assimilation of the freshmen and staying healthy.
“Are they going to accept their roles? Will they be great program leaders, which they have,” McKillop said of the senior class.
▪ A new associate commissioner of the Atlantic 10 is Matt Doherty, the former coach at North Carolina who played in high school on Long Island for McKillop.
“He had such a huge impact on my life as a young man learning the game,” Doherty said of McKillop. “He taught me about the little nuisances of the game. He gave me the opportunity to coach college basketball (as an assistant) at Davidson; that was my first job.”
▪ A-10 preseason first team announced: Peyton Aldridge, Davidson; E.C. Matthews, Rhode Island; Jaylen Adams, St. Bonaventure; Matt Mobley, St. Bonaventure; Justin Tillman, VCU
▪ Davidson will have a red-white scrimmage Oct. 28 and host Division III Hampden-Sydney (Va.) on Nov. 3. Davidson will open its season at home against Charleston Southern on Nov. and begin conference play Dec. 30 at Richmond.
Atlantic 10 preseason poll
Preseason predictions released Tuesday during A-10 media day, with first-place votes and total points:
1. Rhode Island (27) 390
2. St. Bonaventure (1) 345
3. Saint Joseph’s 300
4. VCU 299
5. Dayton 266
6. Davidson 245
7. Saint Louis 225
8. Richmond 198
9. La Salle 194
10. George Mason 140
11. George Washington 132
12. UMass 79
13. Fordham 66
14. Duquesne 61