Members of the men's basketball team practice on Oct. 11. The men were picked to finish tied for third in coaches pre-season polls. (Korie Hawkins/Collegian photographer)

By Paige Carswell
Staff reporter

Matt O’Brien knows he has some big shoes to fill. Fortunately for the head men’s basketball coach, so does everyone else in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference.

The men’s basketball team, which tied for fifth in the KCAC last year, graduated four seniors, who accounted for over 60 percent of the team’s scoring and 50 percent of the team’s rebounding.  This loss included Justin Diggles, who led the team in scoring last season and was a first team all conference selection.

But, because other teams in the conference are facing much of the same situation, the team was still picked to finish in a tie for third by the coaches and fifth by the media.

In light of losing so much experience, O’Brien looked to community colleges for transfers to fill in the holes.

The best of these, O’Brien said, is probably Dennan Morrow, junior guard, who transferred from Barton County Community College. Morrow was in the top five in three-point field goal percentage in the Jayhawk conference last season.

“He was really impressive in the first few weeks, not only as a shooter but in other areas as well,” said O’Brien.

O’Brien also referenced transfers Seth Thompson, a 6’7” sophomore forward who doubles as both a perimeter and post player, Charles Fall, sophomore forward, Ethan Randolph, junior forward, and Chris Nelson, a junior forward from Labette.

“We’re really excited about all of our transfers,” said O’Brien.

O’Brien also brings back David King, senior center, who missed last season due to an ACL injury. King was an all-conference selection and honorable mention All-American two seasons ago, when he ranked third in the nation in field goal percentage at 64.1 percent and averaged over 17 points per game.

But O’Brien said the team has to be careful since both Morrow and King have been battling injuries. “We’re cautiously optimistic with two key players being injured or injury prone.”

There are 16 freshmen on O’Brien’s roster and only three seniors, but he’s not the only one stuck in that boat. Finding transfers was a common theme in recruiting for KCAC for this season. Kansas Wesleyan coach Mike Dabert said his team lost over 60 percent of their scoring from last season to this season.

And McPherson coach Tim Swartzendruber said his team would rely on transfers for experience as well.

Friends University, who took first in conference play last year, has only two returning starters. Dale Faber, head coach for Friend’s said, “I don’t know how we’re going to pick one through ten here today.”

Faber’s Falcons were picked first by both media and coaches. After that, Faber’s prediction came true. The only other positions that were picked the same by both were ninth and tenth place in Kansas Wesleyan and Bethel, respectively.

The coaches chose Sterling second, Bethel in a tie with Southwestern for third, McPherson fifth, Tabor sixth, and Ottawa and the University of Saint Mary in a tie for seventh. Media chose Bethel as second, McPherson third, Sterling fourth, the University of Saint Mary sixth, Tabor seventh and Ottawa eighth.

The men open Nov. 5 at Faith Baptist. Conference play begins Dec. 2 at Sterling.

Paige Carswell is a senior majoring in journalism. You may e-mail her at paige.carswell@sckans.edu.