Las Vegas, Nevada - San Diego State was picked to win the Mountain West in the conference’s annual preseason poll released today at the Renaissance Las Vegas Hotel ahead of MW Media Day activities. Individually, Trey Kell, Jalen McDaniels and Montaque Gill-Caesar were all recognized.
For the third straight year and the fourth time in the last five seasons, the Aztecs finished atop the preseason rankings, this time earning 293 points and 23 of a possible 27 first-place votes. SDSU checks in at No. 1 ahead of second-place Nevada (253 points), third-place New Mexico (249 points; 3 first-place votes) and fourth-place Fresno State (200 points; 1 first-place vote).
Positions 5-11 in the poll are as follows: Boise State (5th; 164 points), Utah State (6th; 153 points), Colorado State (7th; 146 points), UNLV (8th; 120 points), Air Force (9th; 90 points), Wyoming (10th; 73 points), San Jose State (11th; 41 points).
Kell, SDSU’s leading returning scorer and one of three returning starters, was voted to the preseason all-MW team. The junior averaged 12.6 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.4 assists, while starting all 38 games a season ago en route to earning all-Mountain West first-team honors from the league’s head coaches. Against conference competition, Kell averaged 16.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.7 assists, and connected on 39.3 percent from three-point distance.
McDaniels will enter his first year as the Mountain West Co-Freshman of the Year along with Utah State’s Koby McEwen. The Federal Way, Washington native is just the second Aztec to earn the award, following in the footsteps of Kawhi Leonard, who was named preseason freshman of the year in 2009. McDaniels is on Montezuma Mesa following a successful career at Federal Way High where he helped the Eagles to back-to-back state titles and a 29-0 record his senior season. The four-star player averaged 21 points, 10 rebounds and four blocked shots as a senior and was named an all-state player by the Associated Press.
As for Gill-Caesar, he is the eighth player in SDSU history to be named the league’s preseason newcomer of the year and first since 2014. The 6-6, 215-pound guard is eligible this season after sitting out the 2015-16 campaign following his transfer from Missouri. In his one year in Columbia, Gill-Caesar averaged 9.1 points and 3.0 rebounds in 27 games (13 starts). Prior to the start of SEC play, Gill-Caesar averaged 11.5 points, but suffered a back injury that sidelined him for the first three conference games and plagued him for the balance of the schedule. Overall, he scored in double figures 13 times, including a 21-point effort vs. UMKC in his collegiate debut.
San Diego State is in its second week of official practices and will step foot onto Steve Fisher Court at Viejas Arena on Nov. 3, when it welcomes UC San Diego for the first of two exhibition games. The second exhibition is set for Nov. 7, vs. Cal State San Marcos inside Viejas. SDSU will open the season on Nov. 11, when cross-town foe San Diego visits The Mesa.
Mountain West Preseason Poll
1. San Diego State (23 first-place votes) – 293
2. Nevada – 253
3. New Mexico (3 first-place votes) – 249
4. Fresno State (1 first-place votes) – 200
5. Boise State – 164
6. Utah State – 153
7. Colorado State – 146
8. UNLV – 120
9. Air Force – 90
10. Wyoming – 73
11. San José State - 41
Trey Kell, Jr., G, San Diego State
Cameron Oliver, So., F, Nevada
Elijah Brown, Jr., G, New Mexico
Jalen Moore, Sr., W, Utah State
Tim Williams, Jr., F, New Mexico
Player of the Year: Elijah Brown, Jr., G, New Mexico
Co-Freshmen of the Year: Jalen McDaniels, F, San Diego State; Koby McEwen, G, Utah State
Newcomer of the Year: Montaque Gill-Caesar, So., G, San Diego State