Preston Parks Citadel

Citadel guard Preston Parks was the SoCon freshman of the year in 2016-17. Zach Bland/Citadel Athletics 

Preston Parks, you won the Southern Conference freshman of the year award, and last season became the first rookie to lead the SoCon in scoring in league play since Stephen Curry.

What's next?

"This year, I just want to win," says Parks, The Citadel's sophomore standout. "The personal accolades are great, but I just want us to do better as a team."

Parks, a 6-1 guard from Greenville, averaged 18.1 points for coach Duggar Baucom's Bulldogs last year. He was at his best in SoCon games, when he scored 22.1 points per game to lead the league, the first freshman to do so since NBA star Curry averaged 21.8 points in 2006-07.

"He'll tell you himself, it was completely unexpected," Baucom said. "A guy who wasn't heavily recruited at all ends up as SoCon freshman of the year. He handled it as well as can be expected, considering that it happened so fast, in a six-month period."

Parks spent the off-season working on his strength and quickness, spending a lot of time in the weight room.

"At the beginning of my freshman year, I weighed 165," he said. "Now, I'm at 185, so I've definitely gotten bigger and stronger."

He will need the added strength this season, as he will be a starter from day one (he started only nine games last year) and a season-long focus of opposing scouting reports.

"He'll be a target this year," Baucom said. "And he'll have to learn how to handle that. That will be a process also. He can't sneak up on people like he did last year. He'll be a marked man this year, and it's up to his teammates to help him out some."

Parks said the Bulldogs are better equipped for Baucom's fast-paced, 3-point happy "Embrace the Pace" style. Despite leading the nation in scoring last season at 89.8 points per game, the Bulldogs were just 12-21 in Baucom's second season at The Citadel, winning their last two regular-season games to finish 4-14 in the SoCon, then taking a first-round tournament victory over Western Carolina.

"We have more athletes this year, more quicker guys and people that fit the system," Parks said. "This was Coach's second recruiting class here, so I think we have a team that fits his style more than last year's."

With no seniors on the roster, the Bulldogs have a trio of juniors led by 6-7 forward Zane Najdawi, who averaged 15 points and 6.7 rebounds a year ago. Junior guards Matt Frierson and Quayson Williams will be counted on for 3-point shooting.

Parks is one of five sophomores returning, all of whom made significant contributions last year. Point guard Frankie Johnson started 31 games and led the team in assists; 6-6 guard Leandro Allende started 19 games and averaged 5.9 points; and 6-4 guard Kaelon Harris made the all-SoCon freshman team despite missing 12 games with a broken foot.

Then there are six freshmen vying to make an impact. Tariq Simmons, a smooth 6-0 guard from Columbia, scored 14 points in the Bulldogs' exhibition win over Coker. Rob Johnson, a 6-8 forward from Lantana, Fla., could be a rim protector who can help Najdawi in the lane, and 6-6 swingman Kaiden Rice has shot well in preseason practice.

For Parks, it could mean that he does not have to score as much as he did last season.

"It'd be great if he scores the way he did last year," Baucom said. "But at least now, I think we've got some different options. We've got some people to pass the ball to that can knock down shots for us. At least, I hope that's the way it plays out."

The Bulldogs open their season at 3 p.m. Friday against Oglethorpe at McAlister Field House. The road schedule includes Virginia Tech, Florida State and Ohio State. Marist, Army and Maryland-Baltimore County will come to McAlister for the Bulldog Bash Dec. 1-2, and SoCon play opens Dec. 30 against visiting Western Carolina.



Nov. 10 Oglethorpe 3 p.m.

Nov. 12 at Virginia Tech 7 p.m.

Nov. 15 at North Carolina A&T 7 p.m.

Nov. 18 at High Point 2 p.m.

Nov. 21 Trinity Baptist 6 p.m.

Nov. 24 at Florida State 8 p.m.

Dec. 1 Marist 3 p.m. (Bulldog Bash)

Dec. 2 TBA (Bulldog Bash)

Dec. 5 James Madison 6 p.m.

Dec. 14 at Campbell 7 p.m.

Dec. 16 Point 1 p.m.

Dec. 19 at Ohio State 7 p.m.

Dec. 30 Western Carolina 1 p.m.

Jan. 4 at Furman 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 6 at Wofford 7 p.m.

Jan. 11 Samford 6 p.m.

Jan. 13 Chattanooga 1 p.m.

Jan. 18 at UNCG 7 p.m.

Jan. 20 at VMI 1 p.m.

Jan. 27 at Mercer 4 p.m.

Jan. 29 ETSU 6 p.m.

Feb. 1 Wofford 6 p.m.

Feb. 3 Furman 1 p.m.

Feb. 8 at Chattanooga 7 p.m.

Feb. 10 at Samford 8 p.m.

Feb. 15 UNCG 6 p.m.

Feb. 17 VMI 1 p.m.

Feb. 20 at ETSU 7 p.m.

Feb. 23 Mercer 6 p.m.

Feb. 25 at Western Carolina 2 p.m.

March 2-5 SoCon Tournament Asheville, N.C.

Reach Jeff Hartsell at 843-937-5596. Follow on Twitter @Jeff_fromthePC