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A pair of state basketball stars are among the early contenders for one of college's most prestigious awards.

Michigan State senior point guard Cassius Winston and Detroit Mercy sophomore point guard Antoine Davis are among the 50 players who made the preseason watch list for the John R. Wooden Award.

Winston is one of six players from the Big Ten to make the list, while Davis is the lone representative from the Horizon League.

Winston, the former U-D Jesuit standout, was the Big Ten Player of the Year last season and also earned multiple All-America honors, including first-team from the Associated Press and Sporting News. He is the leader of the No. 1-ranked team in the nation, having averaged 18.8 points and 7.5 assists last season.

Michigan State opens the season against No. 2 Kentucky on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Davis, who shattered a number of school and nation freshman records last season, including Steph Curry's freshman 3-point record, is back for a second season playing under his father, Detroit Mercy head coach Mike Davis. Davis made 132 3-pointers as a freshman, and averaged 26.1 points, third in the nation. His 784 points were second in school history, and fourth in league history.

The Wooden Award committee continues to cut down the list of candidates periodically throughout the season, until the award is handed out April 10.

Williams waiver denied 

The Oakland men's team opens the season at home Tuesday night against Goshen.

A few days earlier, it was dealt a big blow by the NCAA, which denied the transfer waiver for Rashad Williams.

Williams, a guard who played his prep ball at Wayne Memorial, transferred from Cleveland State, which happens to be in the Horizon League with Oakland.

It's tough to really understand who gets a waiver approval and who doesn't these days of the transfer portal, but when you're moving from one school to another in the same conference, that clearly complicates matters.

Oakland has said it is appealing the decision.

Williams played in 31 games last season, including nine starts, and was named to the Horizon League All-Freshman Team. He averaged 10.8 points and 1.8 rebounds and, most importantly for Oakland, shot 40.8 percent on 3-pointers. Having lost its two premier shooters via transfer, Oakland coach Greg Kampe is desperately looking for offense.

This and that

Central Michigan women open the season Wednesday at home against Green Bay, and it'll be new head coach Heather Oesterle's debut. She had been a long-time assistant to Sue Guevara, the legendary coach who stunningly retired after last season.

The Chippewas lost some big-time talent, in Presley Hudson and Reyna Frost, but still are picked to win the Mid-American Conference West Division, and perhaps secure a third consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament.

... On the men's side in the MAC, Central Michigan (fourth), Western Michigan (fifth) and Eastern Michigan (sixth) are picked to bring up the rear in the West Division.

... The Wayne State men open the season Friday at home against Ohio Dominican, but then won't play at home again until Jan. 9 against Davenport.

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984

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