MOREHEAD, Ky. — In the midst of a historically successful 2020-21 season, the Morehead State men's basketball program has reaped the benefits of tireless work this year by earning several All-Ohio Valley Conference honors, including the Freshman of the Year and Coach of the Year.
Freshman forward Johni Broome is the first Eagle since Ricky Minard in 2000-01 to be named OVC Freshman of the Year, and he also earned First-Team All-OVC and an All-Newcomer team nod. Junior guard DeVon Cooper was tabbed Second-Team All-Conference, and junior guard Skyelar Potter was named to the All-Newcomer Team.
Head coach Preston Spradlin was also named OVC Coach of the Year. While he is bestowed the honor, he truly believes his staff is a primary reason for the Eagles' success this year, including assistants Scott Combs, Jonathan Mattox and Dominic Lombardi and managers of operations (Adam Gage) and player development (Brent Arrington).
"I am honored to accept the OVC Coach of the Year award on behalf of my dedicated staff. Their efforts in putting this team together, working relentlessly to prepare our players, the sacrifices their families have made and ultimately their commitment to making our program better each and everyday is the reason we have enjoyed great success this season. They deserve so much credit and I am grateful for their loyalty to our program."
Broome, a 6-foot-10 forward from Plant City, Fla., burst onto the college scene this season, taking on a starting role he wasn't even sure he'd have prior to the year.
Broome helped Morehead State to a school-best 17 OVC wins (the second-most in OVC history) and the 20 overall wins mark for just the eighth time in school history (and first since 2015-16). He is currently one of three freshmen nationally to lead their teams in scoring (13.3), rebounding (8.7) and blocked shots (1.9).
In the OVC he ranks first in blocks, second in rebounding, third in offensive rebounds (3.0/game), eighth in field goal percentage (57.6%) and 12th in scoring. Each of those (except scoring where he is second) are tops among all OVC freshmen. Broome has 10 double-doubles this year, the most by an Eagle freshman in more than 30 seasons; the 10 double-doubles ranks 15th nationally and second among all freshmen. Broome scored in double figures in 14 of his final 15 regular season games and had a season-best 25 points in a home win over Arkansas State in December.
He has been named OVC Freshman of the week nine times (including winning or sharing the award each of the last five weeks of the season), which ranks third in league history (two off the record). He needs only 16 more rebounds to surpass Kenneth Faried's MSU freshman record for rebounds (241); Faried went on to set the NCAA modern era rebound record with 1,673. Broome is the third Morehead State player to win the honor, joining Erik Brown (1998-99) and Minard.
Entering his fifth season on the MSU bench, Spradlin and his staff had led the Eagles to back-to-back OVC Tournament appearances, including a quarterfinal appearance in 2019. Entering this year the team was predicted eighth in the OVC preseason poll but far exceeded expectations, winning a school record 17 Conference games (the second-highest total in OVC history) and finishing second behind Belmont (one game back). MSU also has 20 overall wins, marking just the eighth time in program history the team has reached that mark (and first since 2015-16).
Along the way the team won 12 straight games, which tied the school record also held by the 1983-84 squad. At one stretch the team won seven straight games by double digits, the first time that had happened since 1929-30. The team also completed a regular season sweep of in-state rival Murray State for first time since the 2002-03 season.
Entering the postseason Morehead State ranks 13th nationally in blocked shots (5.2/game), 30th in rebounding margin (+6.2/game) and 3-point defense (30.2%), 31st in scoring defense (63.4 points/game) and 37th in field goal defense (40.4%); each of those is tops in the OVC. Spradlin is the first Morehead State coach to win the honor since Donnie Tyndall in 2007-08. Other MSU coaches to win the award are Jack Schalow (1975-76), Wayne Martin (1981-82 and 1983-84) and Dick Fick (1994-95).
Cooper, a 6-foot-4 guard from Louisville, missed all of last season but returned to spark the Eagles as one of the most consistent producers in the league. He averaged 11.7 points and 5.1 rebounds in the regular season while hitting 42 percent from the floor. He also has shot 74 percent from the field and added 62 assists.
Cooper leads Morehead State with 20 games scoring in double figures, only being held under 10 seven times. Leading the Eagles in minutes played (31.7/game), he scored career-highs in points (19) twice (at Murray State and at Jacksonville State). He also had his first double-double against Arkansas State.
Cooper's defensive efforts have led to the Eagles leading the OVC in opponent scoring, field goal percentage defense and three-point field goal percentage defense, and he has consistently guard the foe's top offensive player.
Potter, a 6-foot-3 guard from Bowling Green, Ky., who transferred in from Wright State, won two OVC Newcomer of the Week honors this year and along the way he's averaged 11.7 points and 5.7 rebounds.
Potter leads the team with 51 three-pointers, hitting 37 percent from distance. He scored in double figures 17 times in the regular season, including in nine of the final 10 games. Potter also produced five double-figure rebounding performances and three double-doubles. He had three 20-point games, including a career-best 22 at No. 24 Clemson.
He had 20 points and 13 rebounds in an overtime home win over Austin Peay and tallied 18 points and 13 rebounds in an overtime thriller of a win over Belmont.
Morehead State opens the OVC Tournament on Wednesday night at the Ford Center in Evansville, Ind. The second-seeded Eagles face No. 7 Southeast Missouri, a team it defeated twice this year, at 10:30 p.m. ET.