2023-24 North Carolina Sports Network
NC Basketball Spotlight, 10-Year Snapshot:
UNC Asheville

By Evan Rogers
North Carolina Sports Network

School: University of North Carolina at Asheville (UNC Asheville)

Location: Asheville, N.C.

NCAA DI Member Since: 1986-87

Conference: Big South Conference

Big South Member Since: 1984-85

Big South Ranking Among 32 Leagues (KenPom): 22nd (2023), 24th (2022), 28th (2021), 30th (2020)

NCAA Tournament Bids: 5 (2003, 2011, 2012, 2016, 2023)

Conference Titles: 6 (1989, 2003, 2011, 2012, 2016, 2023)

Conference 1st-Place Finishes: 8 (1997, 1998, 2002, 2008, 2012, 2017, 2018, 2023)

Head Coach: Mike Morrell (41 years old, 6th season at UNCA)

As A Player: Milligan (2000-05)

Record At UNCA (Through Feb. 6): 88-85 (.509) in 5+ seasons

Previous Head Coaching Experience: none

College AC Experience: King (2005-07), Charleston Southern (2010-11), VCU (2011-15), Texas (2015-18)

Assistant Under: J.P. Andrejko, Barclay Radebaugh, Shaka Smart

2022-23 Record: 27-8, 16-2 (1st in 10-team Big South)

2023-24 Preseason Prediction (Coaches/Media): 1st in 9-team Big South

2023-24 Record (Through Feb. 6): 15-9, 7-2 Big South

2023-24 Midseason Ranking (KenPom): #166 nationally (3rd in Big South)

Upcoming Schedule Highlights: High Point (2/7), at USC Upstate (2/10), at Longwood (2/21), Gardner-Webb (2/24), at Radford (3/2)


UNC Asheville is looking to prove that last season’s Big South title, and subsequent NCAA Tournament berth, was not a one-off year.

Under the direction of head coach Mike Morrell, who at 41 years old is among the younger head coaches in Division I basketball, the Bulldogs showed steady growth over the past five seasons.

In his first season at UNCA (2018-19), the Bulldogs went 4-27, winning just two conference games. Since that rough start, though, UNC Asheville has shown gradual improvement each season, culminating in last year’s conference championship.

Despite the historic season that saw the Bulldogs fall to UCLA in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Morrell turned the page to this year long ago.

“It was an offseason where there was a lot of reflection,” Morrell said. “Now that you’re into this new year, into this new team, there’s not a lot of reminiscing (of last season), quite frankly. It doesn’t take anything away from last year and the specialness of that, but we’re going to take some of the things we learned from last year.

“The success that we had last year has absolutely nothing to do with the success we’re trying to have this year. It’s a good team. It’s a deep team. I’m sure there’s going to be an enormous target on our back.”

Despite the added pressure that comes with being the defending conference champions, UNC Asheville has the roster to compete for a second straight Big South title. The Bulldogs returned seven of their top nine scorers from last year’s championship team.

Leading the charge is graduate forward Drew Pember, last year’s Big South Player of the Year. Pember put up nearly 21 points per game last season, along with nine rebounds, and he has posted similarly impressive numbers again this year. A Tennessee transfer now in his third season with the Bulldogs, Pember has won the Big South Defensive Player of the Year honor the last two seasons and has 226 career blocks.

“A lot of people ask, ‘Where can he (Pember) get better? (I say), ‘Everywhere,’” Morrell said. “He needs to get better everywhere, and that’s the special thing about him. He really enjoys being coached. He wants to be coached. He kind of yearns to be coached, and when he doesn’t get coached the way he wants it, he asks for it.”

One of the biggest question marks for Morrell’s team coming into this year, and a main reason the Bulldogs got off to a subpar 5-6 start, was their lack of perimeter shooting. Through their first 10 games this year, they shot 34 percent from beyond the arc, compared to last season’s 39-percent clip.

Gradually, though, the Bulldogs have returned to their sharpshooting ways. Led by starting guards Fletcher Abee (42 percent) and Josh Banks (41 percent), UNCA is hitting 38 percent of its 3-point attempts this season.


2023-24 UNC Asheville Bulldogs
(15-9, 7-2 Big South; through Feb. 6)


PG Caleb Burgess*, Gr. — 26 mpg, 7 ppg, 3 rpg, 39% FG, 59% FT, 32% threes, 115/62 ATO, 1 block, 17 steals
(6-3/185); 2022 Hofstra transfer (2-year starter); Hudson (N.C.) Moravian; Winston-Salem, N.C.

Fletcher Abee*, Sr. — 27 mpg, 10 ppg, 2 rpg, 39% FG, 98% FT, 42% threes, 28/21 ATO, 2 blocks, 8 steals
(6-4/190); 2021 Citadel transfer (2-year starter); Freedom HS; Morganton, N.C.

Josh Banks, Sr. — 30 mpg, 13 ppg, 4 rpg, 42% FG, 85% FT, 41% threes, 28/32 ATO, 9 blocks, 16 steals
(6-5/175); 2023 VCU transfer (3-year reserve); Olympic HS; Charlotte, N.C.

Nick McMullen*, Sr. — 24 mpg, 11 ppg, 7 rpg, 61% FG, 51% FT, 67% threes (few), 18/42 ATO, 13 blocks, 24 steals
(6-8/237); 2022 Murray State transfer (2-year reserve); Ben L. Smith HS; Greensboro, N.C.

Drew Pember*, Gr. — 30 mpg, 21 ppg, 8 rpg, 48% FG, 87% FT, 36% threes, 81/65 ATO, 44 blocks, 22 steals
(6-11/215); 2021 Tennessee transfer (2-year reserve); Big South POY/DPOY; Knoxville, Tenn.

Key Reserves

G Trent Stephney, Gr. — 16 mpg, 5 ppg, 2 rpg, 48% FG, 67% FT, 49% threes, 37/15 ATO, 2 blocks, 19 steals
(6-2/173); 5th-year UNCA contributor (54 starts); Bearden HS; Knoxville, Tenn.

Davion Cunningham, So. — 12 mpg, 4 ppg, 3 rpg, 48% FG, 68% FT, 9% threes, 15/8 ATO, 1 block, 8 steals
(6-3/165); minimal PT in 2022-23; North Mecklenburg HS; Charlotte, N.C.

Jamon Battle, Gr. — 18 mpg, 4 ppg, 3 rpg, 52% FG, 41% FT, 27% threes, 15/15 ATO, 8 blocks, 11 steals
(6-5/207); 5th-year UNCA contributor (44 starts); LC Bird HS; Richmond, Va.

Toyaz Solomon, Jr. — 14 mpg, 5 ppg, 3 rpg, 65% FG, 64% FT, 29% threes, 11/11 ATO, 19 blocks, 7 steals
(6-9/185); 2023 Caldwell CC transfer (region POY/DPOY); NW Halifax HS; Enfield, N.C.

*—returning starter (started at least 50% of current team’s games last season)

UNC Asheville Bulldogs
10-Year Snapshot

Season — Overall, League (Place), Postseason

2022-23 — 27-8, 16-2* Big South (1st), NCAA 1st Round (Mike Morrell)
2021-22 — 17-15, 8-8 Big South (5th), CBI Quarterfinals (Mike Morrell)
2020-21 — 10-10, 9-5 Big South (4th), no postseason (Mike Morrell)
2019-20 — 15-16, 8-10 Big South (5th), no postseason (Mike Morrell)
2018-19 — 4-27, 2-14 Big South (10th), no postseason (Mike Morrell)
2017-18 — 21-13, 13-5 Big South (1st), NIT 1st Round (Nick McDevitt)
2016-17 — 23-10, 15-3 Big South (t-1st), CIT 1st Round (Nick McDevitt)
2015-16 — 22-12, 12-6* Big South (3rd), NCAA 1st Round (Nick McDevitt)
2014-15 — 15-16, 10-8 Big South (6th), no postseason (Nick McDevitt)
2013-14 — 17-15, 10-6 Big South (4th), no postseason (Nick McDevitt)

*—conference champion

NOTE: Please visit the North Carolina Sports Network’s 2023-24 profiles and 10-year snapshots for all 19 Division One men’s basketball programs in North Carolina and all 15 Atlantic Coast Conference programs.

Appalachian State Mountaineers, Sun Belt Conference

Boston College Eagles, Atlantic Coast Conference

Campbell Camels, Coastal Athletic Association

Charlotte 49ers, American Athletic Conference

Clemson Tigers, Atlantic Coast Conference

Davidson Wildcats, Atlantic-10 Conference

Duke Blue Devils, Atlantic Coast Conference

East Carolina Pirates, American Athletic Conference

Elon Phoenix, Coastal Athletic Association

Florida State Seminoles, Atlantic Coast Conference

Gardner-Webb Runnin’Bulldogs, Big South Conference

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Atlantic Coast Conference

High Point Panthers, Big South Conference

Louisville Cardinals, Atlantic Coast Conference

Miami Hurricanes, Atlantic Coast Conference

NC Central Eagles, Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference

NC State Wolfpack, Atlantic Coast Conference

North Carolina Tar Heels, Atlantic Coast Conference

North Carolina A&T Aggies, Coastal Athletic Association

Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Atlantic Coast Conference

Pitt Panthers, Atlantic Coast Conference

Queens Royals, Atlantic Sun Conference

Syracuse Orange, Atlantic Coast Conference

UNC Greensboro Spartans, Southern Conference

UNC Wilmington Seahawks, Coastal Athletic Association

Virginia Cavaliers, Atlantic Coast Conference

Virginia Tech Hokies, Atlantic Coast Conference

Wake Forest Demon Deacons, Atlantic Coast Conference

Western Carolina Catamounts, Southern Conference