App State men’s basketball tips off 2022-23 season


Travis Holshouser

Junior forward CJ Huntley wins the tip against Sun Belt opponent Troy Feb. 17, 2022.

Kurt Zottl, Reporter

After clinching a berth to the NCAA Tournament in 2021, the Mountaineers had high expectations to get back to the tournament in 2022, but were unsuccessful in doing so after a loss to Georgia State in the semifinals of the Sun Belt Tournament.

This year’s 2022-23 roster is very different from the ones seen in the past two seasons, with Michael Almonacy, Justin Forrest, Adrian Delph and James Lewis Jr. all graduating, and RJ Duhart entering the transfer portal. The Mountaineers are replacing nearly 75% of their three point-makes from last year. 

With these key losses, App State picked up six new guys — four from the transfer portal and two from high school.

“We’ve got six new guys, but we also got some really key returners,” head coach Dustin Kerns said. “Our program has a lot of pride in player development.”

One of those key returners is Donovan Gregory, a senior forward from Charlotte who has a chance to have the most wins from an App State basketball player in history. Gregory started in 29 of 31 games last season and recorded-season highs last season with 326 points, 173 rebounds and 83 assists. He now looks to become a leader for the rest of this roster.

“I’ve been around the culture since the coaches first got here, and I know what they expect from us,” Gregory said. “I bring that mindset with me every day and instill that within my teammates.”

Some other key Mountaineer returners include junior forward CJ Huntley, junior guard Xavion Brown and junior guard Michael Eads Jr. Brown, who appeared in just six games last year due to a knee injury looks to be a key guy for Kerns this season.

“Xavion Brown is back and healthy and certainly he’s looked really well this preseason,” Kerns said.

The Mountaineers once again have a tough non-conference schedule they will have to face before they get to Sun Belt play. The notable opponents include Louisville, Wake Forest, University of California Santa Barbara and East Tennessee State University. 

The Mountaineers had the 182nd toughest last year according to the Men’s College Basketball Power Index, which ranked second in the Sun Belt behind the University of Texas-Arlington.

“Something we’ve always tried to do with our non-conference schedule is play the very best to prepare ourselves for the ultra-competitive Sun Belt,” Kerns said. “Last year, we played the 26th toughest non-conference schedule in the country.”

The Sun Belt also welcomes four new teams this season, as Southern Miss., Marshall, Old Dominion and James Madison made the jump to the Sun Belt Jul. 1. 

“The Sun Belt is a tremendous conference filled with great coaches and players,” Kerns said. “I think that we’ve added some more regional trips which will help us from a travel standpoint.”

Also heading into the season, App State has sold the most season tickets ever in program history.

The Mountaineers open up their season at home at Holmes Convocation Center Nov. 7 at 6:30 p.m. against Warren Wilson.