Nov. 15 – BETHANY, W. Va. – After a 13-11 season record, which included a 10-6 mark in Presidents’ Athletic Conference play, the Bethany College men’s basketball team will look to recapture conference supremacy, and notch their third PAC title in four years in 2013-14.
This year, the Bison will be tasked with replacing four, departing seniors in Nick Wilcox, Reece Maybery, Brady Pacific and James Barton. A group which totaled over 4,300 career points and helped Bethany to 78 wins, including 42 in conference play over their four-year stretch.
“Anytime you replace four starters, including one that was a four-year player in Wilcox, you have to quickly find your identity all over again,” remarked head coach Andrew Sachs. “It is the nature of the beast in collegiate athletics. You always lose great players to graduation, but you can always find guys that can step up and fill those roles to move the team into the future.”
One of those players that Coach Sachs is referring to is senior forward Leslie Addy (Columbia, Md./St. Vincent Pallotti). Addy, who appeared in all 27 games for the Bison last season, totaled 10.8 points per game and shot 46 percent from the field, including just under 40 percent from beyond the three-point line.
“Addy is one of those guys that will always lead by example,” remarked Coach Sachs of his senior forward. “Although he may not be the most vocal player on the floor, you will never find someone who works harder or has a bigger passion for the game.”
Addy, who has played substantial minutes in two NCAA tournament appearances for the Bison, ranked second on the team in total rebounds last season, averaging 6.2 per game to go along with scoring 11.2 points per game against conference opponents.
Addy notched three double-doubles on the season last year, including a 33-point, 10-rebound showing against Washington & Jefferson. He also pulled down more rebounds in a game than anyone on the team, notching 19 boards in a contest with Geneva.
"Addy never takes a play off during the course of the game, and gives 100% every single time he steps on the court."
The Bison will look to fill holes left by Maybery, Pacific and Barton in the backcourt. However, Coach Sachs feels like he has the pieces in place to make a smooth transition with the guards this season.
Returning letterwinners, Lawrence Weldon (Baltimore, Md./Poly) and Tyrone Smothers (Baltimore, Md./Mergenthaler), as well as junior Delonte’ Joyce (Annapolis, Md./Annapolis), will all look to have significant floor time this season.
Weldon saw some starting minutes for the Bison last year due to injuries in the front court, and filled the Bison’s needs nicely, shooting 48.6 percent from the field during his junior campaign. But it was the way that he conducts himself on the defensive end that gives Coach Sachs confidence of his ability.
“Weldon is a great defensive player on the ball,” remarked Sachs. “His quickness and ability to anticipate make him an extremely tough defender.
“He will also be able to turn his defense into offense with his great, end-to-end speed. Also, he has really improved his perimeter shooting, which is going to add another facet to his game.”
Joining Weldon in the back court will be Smothers, who appeared in every game for Bethany a year ago. Smothers averaged 4.2 points per game as a reserve for Coach Sachs and distributed the ball well, averaging almost +2.5 in his assist-to-turnover ratio.
“Smothers really came on strong for us towards the end of the season when we really needed him,” commented Sachs. “We expect a lot out of him this year, especially in his leadership abilities on the floor.”
Also seeing playing time in the backcourt will be Joyce as well as freshmen Antonio Rudolph (New Castle, Pa./New Castle) and Pedro Lalor (Orlando, Fla./Dr. Phillips).
“We have a very versatile group of guards this season,” said Sachs of his backcourt. “We have guys that can shoot from long range, guys that can pressure the ball very well, and guys that can do both of those things.”
Bethany ranked first in the PAC in steals a year ago, and also were the top team in the conference in turnover margin at +7.81. Those statistics are something that Coach Sachs believes the team can repeat.
“We have a lot of quick guards on our roster this season, so our hope is to be able to extend our pressure and mix up the defenses to keep teams off balance. I really believe that the defensive pressure of our backcourt can make for some quick, transition offense, which will really help our team this season.”
With the departure of a four-year starter in Wilcox, the Bison will look to a few different “big men” to step up in the front court this season.
Along with Addy, who has the capability to play either of the forward positions, Coach Sachs will also look to Kevin Jackson (Baltimore, Md./Walbrook) to provide post presence and leadership to the team.
Jackson made 11 starts over the course of the season last year, but appeared in all 27 games. He averaged 6.4 points per contest over the course of the season, but improved that mark to 7.1 per game against conference opponents.
“Last season, I fee like we may have relied a bit too much on the outside game,” commented Sachs. “This season, Jackson gives us that solid post presence that we need and he gives us the ability to be more aggressive on the boards as well as in our game planning.”
Joining Addy and Jackson in the frontcourt are junior transfer Ramel Young (Walterboro, S.C./Estill), junior Michael McElhenie (Waterford, Pa./General McLane), sophomores Alan Harper (Cleveland, Ohio/Cleveland Central Catholic) and Darrian Bruster (Cleveland, Ohio/Cleveland Central Catholic) and freshman Nijay Kelly (Philadelphia, Pa./Samuel Fels).
“We need to rely more on our frontcourt to get the job done this season,” said Sachs. “Last year I don’t think we were aggressive enough in the paint.
“We need to do two things better this season; rebound the ball more effectively, and get to the line more efficiently. I feel that with the versatility that we have in our frontcourt, we will be able to do just that, and not have to rely so much on our backcourt play like we did last year.”
This season, the Bison will play 11 contests in the friendly confines of Hummel Field House, and will also play 14 road contests this season. Notable non-conference games include Ohio Athletic Conference opponents Mount Union (at home on November 19) and Baldwin-Wallace (at home on December 21); the latter receiving votes in the D3 Hoops Pre-season Top 25. The Bison will also take on Penn-State Behrend, who was a NCAA tournament team last season.
“We have a schedule that is full of tough teams this season,” remarked Coach Sachs. “There are some great, quality opponents this year, and it will make for an exciting season all around.”
Following five, non-conference games to start the season, the Bison will open Presidents’ Athletic Conference play at Waynesburg University on Tuesday, December 4.
Bethany will kick off the 2013-14 season with a trip Frostburg, Md. to take on the Bobcats of Frostburg State University. The contest is scheduled for a 7 p.m. tipoff.