VIDEO: Mason Bates Interview
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – This is the final part in a two-part series breaking down the Eagles' guards. Junior Mason Bates (Cookeville, Tenn.) helps break down the Eagles' ball-handlers for 2017-18.
The Eagles backcourt features one Charles Clark (Murfreesboro, Tenn.). The senior has already picked up a pair preseason All-America honors and will presumably be a preseason All-SAC first team selection.
"I think he's upped his game even more, if that's possible," Bates said. "He's added some elements to his game that I would like to be a surprise. So come out and watch us play to see what he can do."
Clark averaged 21.9 points per game and has scored 658 points this season. It's the seventh best scoring season in the history of the South Atlantic Conference and the best individual scoring effort for an Eagle since Carson-Newman moved to Division II. He is the league's scoring champ for 2016-17.
The high water mark for Clark came in the final week of the regular season. The Murfreesboro, Tenn.-native tallied up the highest scoring triple-double in the history of basketball (NCAA or NBA) while resetting both the Carson-Newman and South Atlantic Conference single-game scoring records against Coker on Feb. 25. Clark poured in 54 points to bypass Ish Sanders (51 points versus Mars Hill in 2011) for the Carson-Newman record and RJ McLure (52 points versus Anderson in 2014) for the South Atlantic Conference mark.
He also turned in 11 points and 12 assists for his third triple-double in as many home games. Clark is the seventh player in NCAA history and the first at the Division II level with back-to-back triple-doubles.
Abraham established himself as an elite three-point shooter in his first season at Mossy Creek. The sophomore knocked down 83 threes, the second most in a single season in school history. Abraham averaged 13.8 points per game on 41 percent shooting from the field and 37 percent shooting from three.
He also chipped in 2.5 rebounds per game and was third on the team for assists with 57. Abraham put together 22 double-digit scoring efforts, including five straight to end the year. He cracked the 20-point mark five times, including a career-high 28 against Newberry (1/21). He became the first Eagle in four years to knock down at least eight threes in that game. Abraham came a rebound shy of a double-double against Tusculum (1/4), with 21 points and nine collected caroms. Abraham knocked down four or more threes on eight occasions.
"I think the biggest thing for us is guys who have played college basketball before," Bates said. "These are also guys who have played winning college basketball. The biggest thing is that we've all played with each other and know each others games. We can support one another better and put each other in positions to succeed."
Bates returns from a shoulder injury that resulted in a medical redshirt last year. He has the second most dunks on the team among active players with 16, behind Clark's 22. He played in four games last year before the injury sidelined him for the remainder of the season.
Bates was Carson-Newman's sixth-leading scorer as a sophomore. He averaged 8.5 points per game to go along with 3.4 rebounds per contest. He shot 51 percent from the field and 39 percent from three to go along with a 72.1 percent effort at the charity stripe. Bates topped double digits in 11 games for C-N as a sophomore including a career high 20 against Mars Hill (2/3).
The Eagles also get back Cameron Holmes (Fort Mill, S.C.) and Reece Anderson (Douglasville, Ga.), who both saw starts and plenty of playing time in their freshman seasons. Taylor Hawkins (Madisonville, Tenn.) also adds depth off the bench for the position.
"Since I've been here, we've been more forward dominant," Bates said. "This year, I think it's more of a perimeter-based offense to try to spread defenses out with our three-point shooting ability."
The Eagles brought in three new guards in freshmen Kellen King (Brentwood, Tenn.) and Nick Rogers (Knoxville, Tenn.) as well as junior transfer Grant Teichmann (Brentwood, Tenn.) who makes his way to Mossy Creek from Freed-Hardeman.
"Grant is highly intelligent and a great communicator," Bates said. "Being on the floor with him, you always know what he's going to do. It makes everything run more smoothly, plus, he's a phenomenal shooter."
As a sophomore, he appeared in all 30 games the Lions played with 19 starts. He wound up as the team's second leading scorer with 10.3 points per game, 4.1 boards a game and 98 assists against 35 turnovers on the year. He connected on 51 percent of his shots and 42 percent of his threes. He scored a career high 27 points on Nov. 19, 2016 against Lindenwood-Belleville (Ill.).
The Eagles make their debut Nov. 2 with an exhibition game at the University of Tennessee.