“It’s been a pretty awesome season for us,” said senior forward Zach Jacobs, the 2016-17 Times-Dispatch All-Metro player of the year out of Trinity Episcopal. “And we’re sitting in a lot different place than we were last year.”
Even after the turnover JMU experienced, Jacobs said that, from Day 1, the Dukes knew they had a lot of talent. Jacobs averaged 6.6 points and 4.4 rebounds last season, and led the team with 24 blocks.
Joining him as the Dukes’ lone other senior was guard Matt Lewis, who led JMU and was fifth in the conference at 19 points per game in 2019-20.
And forward Julien Wooden and guard Michael Christmas earned much time as freshmen, at 19.2 and 19.1 minutes per game, respectively.
But after finishing last in the league last season, and following all the change, JMU was picked to finish ninth — next to last — in the CAA preseason poll in November.
That accentuated the Dukes’ feeling that they had something to prove.
“When someone picks you at a certain spot or thinks you can’t do something, if you’re the right type of person, I think you want to prove them wrong,” Byington said.
JMU began the season 3-4, but to junior guard Vado Morse, a big moment for the team was its matchup at VCU on Dec. 22. The Rams were 6-2 at the time, and Morse was out with a foot injury.