AZUSA, Calif. -- NAIA powerhouse Azusa Pacific has been tabbed the No. 1-ranked team by the popular Street & Smith's College Basketball 2002 preview magazine. The Cougars, who return 6 players from last year's 28-8 team that advanced to the NAIA Final Four in Kansas City, Mo., highlight an NAIA Top 5 that include No. 2-ranked Faulkner University (Ala.), No. 3 Oklahoma Baptist, No. 4 Georgetown (Ky.) and No. 5 Union University (Tenn.).
This marks the first time Azusa Pacific has ever been picked No. 1 in a preseason poll for any publication or association. As Street & Smith's Chuck Mistovich writes in the opening line of his NAIA preview, "It's the year of the Cougars in the NAIA. After reaching the Final Four 3 times over the last 5 seasons, coach Bill Odell may go all the way this season."
Heading Azusa Pacific's list of returnees is 2-time All-GSAC point guard Caleb Gervin. Creating excitement among the newcomers are shooting guard Ryan Dillon, a transfer from Cal State Fullerton, and forward Danny Rosales, an all-state junior college honoree last year at East Los Angeles Community College. Street & Smith gave both Gervin and Dillon preseason NAIA All-American honorable mention.
Arizona (NCAA Division I), Metropolitan State (NCAA Division II), and Rochester (NCAA Division III) join Azusa Pacific as Street & Smith's top-ranked teams for their respective associations.
Azusa Pacific is the winningest 4-year college program in California over the past 10 years, going 290-63 (.822) on the hardwood since 1993. The Cougars advanced to the NAIA Final Four in 1998, 1998 and 2002. Azusa Pacific opens the 2002-03 season on Nov. 15 at home against No. 5-ranked Union.
The NAIA will release its Coaches' Top 25 Preseason Poll on Oct. 29.