This blog is on the move…

As many of you all already know, this WKU men’s basketball blog is moving permanently to bgdailynews.com.

The blog, which is now called HILLTOPPER FOCUS, can be found here. Please bookmark this page, write down the address, do whatever you have to so you remember where to check for the latest news on the HIlltoppers.

I appreciate the readers who have already made the jump. Should be a fun season.

Harper talks Rostov’s progress, breaks down several Tops on C-USA live stream

Western Kentucky coach Ray Harper discussed several Hilltoppers' progress Wednesday at Conference USA media day, including Aleksej Rostov's return from a blood clot ailment. (Joe Imel/Daily News)

Western Kentucky coach Ray Harper discussed several Hilltoppers’ progress Wednesday at Conference USA media day, including Aleksej Rostov’s return from a blood clot ailment. (Joe Imel/Daily News)

Ray Harper had a busy day in Birmingham, Ala.

The Western Kentucky men’s basketball coach made the rounds at his first Conference USA media day Wednesday, talking at length with reporters and C-USA’s Digital Network.

The BGDN’s Chad Bishop was in Birmingham today and talked with Harper and WKU women’s coach Michelle Clark-Heard. Chad also gathered reaction from other league coaches to WKU’s arrival in the conference.

Harper took part with the rest of the league’s men’s and women’s coaches Wednesday evening in a C-USA live stream interview session broadcast online.

Among the interesting things Harper discussed during that interview was the progress of junior forward Aleksej Rostov as he returns from the blood clot issue that sidelined him midway through last season.

WKU’s website lists the 6-foot-10 Rostov at 225 pounds. Harper said the Latvia native, who was cleared for full activity July 12, is back up to about 232 pounds.

“If you didn’t know he’d missed the time last year, you’d never know he’d been out,” Harper said. “He’s just a good kid and a hard worker. I think it helps our other guys to not take things for granted. He’s constantly reminding those guys of how quickly something you love can be taken away.”

Harper was asked if this year’s team, which returns four starters, is his best yet, but he said it’s far too early to tell. But he did complement the group’s depth, as well as the familiarity with his dependable seniors.

Harper was asked specifically about several Hilltoppers. Here were his comments:

Senior guard T.J. Price: “He’s the guy that has really expanded his game and has been the best we had all summer. Obviously, he’s always been able to shoot the 3, but now he’s really attacking the basket. He has a mid-range game, and he’s in the best shape of his life.”

Senior forward George Fant: “He can step out and make a 17-footer. Incredible in the weight room. He plays bigger than the 6-7 that he is. He’s a guy that loves the big games.”

Redshirt sophomore guard Chris Harrison-Docks: “Plays with a swag, but a guy – he’s a scoring point guard. He came out of point guard averaging about 27 a game. Typical Butler recruit, really could shoot the basketball. What we’ve really tried to work on is his ability to deliver the basketball and be more of a point guard and score when the opportunity presents itself. He’s brought in and done a great job with that this summer.”

Senior guard Trency Jackson: “Athlete. Probably our hardest worker. He’s a kid who’s going to defend every position and attack. He spent a lot of time in the summer working on his 3-point shot, and a guy I’m expecting to have a big summer year for us.”

Two in-state 2017 prospects attending Hilltopper Hysteria; Goodin in frequent contact with WKU staff

Prep Basketball: Franklin-Simpson at Allen County-Scottsville

Franklin-Simpson’s Tavin Lovan will attend WKU’s Hilltopper Hysteria event Saturday. Lovan has an offer from the Tops. (Daily News file photo)

Two standout rising sophomores from Kentucky will attend Western Kentucky’s Hilltopper Hysteria on Saturday.

Ohio County forward Trace Young told me he’s planning a trip to Diddle Arena, and Franklin-Simpson guard Tavin Lovan will also be there, according to his father, Tony Lovan.

Both players hold offers from WKU. Here’s a feature I wrote in March about Lovan and his family’s connection to the Hilltoppers.

Young, a 6-foot-6 forward, also has offers from Wright State, Samford and Morehead State. WKU is the only offer right now for the 6-3 Lovan.

One of the state’s top 2016 prospects, Taylor County guard Quentin Goodin, said he hasn’t decided yet if he will attend Hilltopper Hysteria. Goodin – who said he talks with someone from WKU’s staff every day – is a four-star prospect with offers from WKU, Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Oklahoma State, Tennessee, West Virginia and UAB.

In case you missed it, WKU’s 2015 verbal commit, Chris McNeal, will be at Hilltopper Hysteria, as will three-star 2016 guard prospect Braxton Beverly.

Three-star 2016 point guard prospect Beverly to attend Hilltopper Hysteria

Western Kentucky will have several visitors Saturday at its Hilltopper Hysteria season kickoff event at E.A. Diddle Arena, including a three-star point guard prospect in the 2016 class.

Braxton Beverly – a 5-foot-10, 165-pound junior guard from Perry County Central High School in Hazard – told me he’ll be at Diddle for the festivities. He holds an offer from WKU.

Beverly averaged 21.1 points and 4.2 rebounds as a sophomore at PCC, shooting 45.3 percent from the field. He’s a former teammate of current WKU freshman forward Justin Johnson.

Beverly also has offers from Samford, Miami (Ohio), Marshall, Cleveland State, Northern Kentucky and Kentucky Wesleyan.

WKU’s lone 2015 verbal commit, three-star point guard Chris McNeal, also plans to attend Hilltopper Hysteria.

WKU offering ticket package that includes Louisville game; Single-game tickets on sale Oct. 27

Have Western Kentucky’s home hoops game against Louisville on Dec. 20 circled on your calendar?

If you don’t have season tickets, WKU is offering a package to get a head start on tickets that include the Cardinals.

A three-game mini-plan featuring tickets to WKU’s home games against Louisville (Dec. 20), Belmont (Nov. 22) and Chicago State (Dec. 17) at E.A. Diddle Arena will go on sale at 8 a.m. Wednesday.

The mini-plan costs $75 and can be purchased online at WKUSports.com, by visiting the WKU Ticket Office at Diddle Arena or by calling the ticket office at 1-800-5-BIG RED or 745-5222 locally.

The only ways to guarantee a ticket to the Louisville game at this time are to purchase season tickets or the mini-plan package.

Single-game tickets for the 2014-15 season go on sale Oct. 27, but tickets to the Louisville game may or may not be available at that time, according to WKU.

As was the case last time WKU hosted Louisville in 2010, students will get into the game for free, but entry will be limited to a certain number of vouchers available for pick-up at a later date.

WKU point guard commit McNeal to attend Hilltopper Hysteria

South Side (Tenn.) High School point guard Chris McNeal – a WKU commit – will take an unofficial visit to the Hill this weekend for Hilltopper Hysteria. (AP Photo/Mike Strasinger)

South Side (Tenn.) High School point guard Chris McNeal (right) – a WKU commit – will take an unofficial visit to the Hill this weekend for Hilltopper Hysteria. (AP Photo/Mike Strasinger)

Western Kentucky’s lone verbal commit in the 2015 class, three-star point guard Chris McNeal, will be at E.A. Diddle Arena on Saturday as the Tops begin their season with the annual Hilltopper Hysteria kickoff event.

McNeal, a 5-foot-11, 165-pound guard from South Side High School in Jackson, Tenn.,  said he’ll be at WKU for the festivities on an unofficial visit. He also told the Daily News he plans to officially sign with the Hilltoppers during the November early signing period, which begins Nov. 12.

McNeal committed to WKU in July. He said he chose the Tops over Middle Tennessee, Cleveland State and Massachusetts.

The guard averaged 19.3 points, four rebounds and four assists as a junior last season. He’s rated a three-star prospect by Scout.com.

Lady Tops picked second in C-USA; Gooch named preseason POY

Western Kentucky senior forward Chastity Gooch runs drills Sunday during the team's first practice at E.A. Diddle Arena. Bac To Trong/Daily News

Western Kentucky senior forward Chastity Gooch runs drills Sunday during the team’s first practice at E.A. Diddle Arena. Bac To Trong/Daily News

The Western Kentucky women’s basketball team was picked to finish second in Conference USA by the league’s coaches, and senior forward Chastity Gooch is the C-USA preseason player of the year, the conference announced today.

The Lady Toppers, who went 24-9 last year and won the Sun Belt Conference Tournament in their last year in the league, received five first-place votes – one fewer than C-USA’s top vote-getter, Middle Tennessee.

MTSU received 181 total points, two ahead of WKU and 18 points ahead of third-place Southern Miss, which received one first-place vote. Texas El Paso also garnered a first-place vote and was picked fourth.

In addition to the player of the year Gooch, WKU senior guard Alexis Govan and redshirt sophomore guard Kendall Noble were named to the preseason all-Conference USA team.

Gooch averaged 18.4 points and nine rebounds per game as a junior and was named the Sun Belt’s defensive player of the year for the second straight season. She’s the leading active career point scorer in Conference USA with 1,322 career points and one of just four active players in the league with 1,000 career points entering this season.

Govan was the Sun Belt’s preseason player of the year in 2013-14, but she missed all but 11 games with a stress fracture in her left tibia. She was averaging 16.5 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.5 steals before the injury.

Noble was the SBC freshman of the year last season. She averaged 11 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.5 steals.

2014-15 Preseason C-USA Women’s Basketball Poll

1. Middle Tennessee (6) – 181 points

2. WKU (5) – 179 points

3. Southern Miss (1) – 163 points

4. UTEP (1) – 154 points

5. Charlotte – 132 points

6. Old Dominion – 116 points

7. Louisiana Tech – 105 points

8. UAB – 104 points

t9. North Texas – 70 points

t9. UTSA (1) – 70 points

11. FIU – 61 points

12. Rice – 58 points

13. Florida Atlantic – 45 points

14. Marshall – 32 points

(#) – designates first-place votes

Preseason Player of the Year

Chastity Gooch, WKU

2014-15 Preseason All-Conference USA Women’s Basketball Team

Lefty Webster, Charlotte, So., G, Norfolk, Virginia

Whitney Frazier, Louisiana Tech, Sr., F, El Dorado, Arkansas

Olivia Jones, Middle Tennessee, So., G/F, Murfreesboro, Tennessee

Tamara Jones, Southern Miss, Sr., F, Prosser, Washington

Chelsee Black, UAB, Jr., G, Bessemer, Alabama

Chastity Gooch, WKU, Sr., F, Franklin, Kentucky

Alexis Govan, WKU, Sr., G/F, San Antonio

Kendall Noble, WKU, RS So., G, Hazard, Kentucky