Greyhound men open with four games in four nights
Fort Scott Community College's second-year head men's basketball coach Michael Cook wasn't really surprised that the Jayhawk Conference coaches picked the Greyhounds to finish eighth -- where they placed last season -- in the pre-season poll last week. But if predictions were guaranteed to be accurate, why would the games ever be played?
"The last six positions in the predictions are usually where your team ended up at the end of last year," Cook said Friday morning. "That may be appropriate to where we are right now but I don't think we're going to finish there. The top four or five switch around every year. But it doesn't mean it's going to end that way. No one can know what you're going to end up in a year.
"It motivates us to go get our respect and continue to grow. Last year, we were picked to finish 10th. If you go by that logic, we'll be in the fifth or sixth spot. You just have to play the game and stay focused.'
The Greyhounds, who finished 11-20 last season, tip off their season at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday night against Missouri State-West Plains. The Greyhounds have faced MSU-WP several times in the past few seasons but this will be the first time the Grizzlies come to Arnold Arena.
The 'Hounds will be tested right off the bat as they will play four games in four days to open the season. After Wednesday's home game against the Grizzlies (14-17 last season), they will go to Hutchinson and play in the Quarterback Classic. They play at 5:30 p.m. Thursday against Weatherford (Texas), 7:30 p.m. Friday against Hutchinson and 3:30 p.m. Saturday against the Sterling College JV -- the only JV team on this year's schedule.
"When Missouri State-West Plains comes in, they'll have a couple of 7-footers, a couple of 6' 8" kids," Cook notes. "But to get to where we want to be, we have to play tough teams. You can't and sit behind a schedule of JV's. And I think we have the respect from the conference for what we did last year. I've told the guys we have to build on that. I'm excited about this team in the fact that they're coming together and I think they're ready to play. I'm excited about it."
Cook's Greyhounds finished 5-13 in conference play. They opened with a home-court victory over Eastern Division co-champion Coffeyville, which was Fort Scott's first over the Red Ravens in nine years. But after that, the 'Hounds lost six straight and 11 of the next 13. They split their final four conference games before losing to Butler in the first round of the Region VI Tournament.
"I knew it was a tough conference and I knew that each night you have to come with consistent coaching, consistent play, consistent in every aspect of the game," Cook said. "The one thing I did embrace was that there's a great opportunity to continue to grow here. So we have to be consistent and we have to compete.
"On any given night, we can be competitive and anybody can win a game. We won our first conference game. It gave us a boost that we couple compete but nobody could sleep on us anymore. Everybody was ready for us the rest of the year. So we learned we have to be ready and we can't rest on what we've done the night before. We have to come with the same intensity every game."
Only two players return for the Greyhounds this season. They are guard Bryce Kemp (6' 0", Soph., Spencer, Okla.) and forward Ramell Taylor (6' 6", Soph., Detroit). Kemp is a defensive catalyst, Cook says, while Taylor can score when given the opportunities. Taylor played with a broken hand during the middle of the season and had to sit out the last half of conference play because of it.
"These are two guys I thought would help us continue to grow," Cook says. "The team we had last year worked extremely hard and we had two of the top 10-leading scorers (Darrell Blanton and Kurklin Bohannon). But I think they weren't as happy as they could be, playing that far away from home.
"Bryce knows what it takes to win. He came from a high school that had kind of the same system we have right now. Ramell stayed here the whole summer so he could be ready to graduate on time. And he also increased his offensive game. We're leaning on them to be leaders. Ramell can score, he averaged about 4 points a game, but it's a matter of being given the opportunities to score."
Eleven freshmen are also on the roster, which will include Alex Barner (6' 4") once he's done with football season. One of the 10 currently in camp, Robert Hatcher (6' 0", Selma, Ala.) and Caleb Brown (5' 10", Rose Hill) are expected to step in as point guards.
"At the point, it's the best I've felt in a long time," Cook said. "Robert is a tough player, a shooter. He's growing into the position, the way he's supposed to play it in our system. He studies game film and he's a gym rat. Caleb is a shooter, very smart and studies the game. I'm not sure who's going to start. They're competing for the position but I'm comfortable with that because last year, I felt we didn't have a leader at that position. We lost a lot of close game, I felt, because we didn't have that leadership at the point. We also averaged 15 turnovers last year and I think we have point guards who will value the basketball better."
Kemp is the most experienced of the players Cook has in mind as the "combo guard," as he calls the position. Jacob Gougler (6' 5", Fr., Galena) will also try that position after playing in the post most of the time in high school. Another candidate is Robert Mason (6' 3", Fr.) out of Kansas City-Piper.
"Gougler spent the summer here," Cook said. "He's lifted weights, worked on his jump shot and he's probably been in the gym eight hours a day. This last month, he's been the glue for the team. When we need energy, he picks us up. He's a pass-first type of player but he can score, too.
"Bryce would have 9 rebounds at times and he's just six feet. He plays with heart. We'll give him the chance to be the 2-guard for us and he'll be a defensive catalyst. Robbie could be a sleeper if he starts doing the things we know he's capable of doing. He's the fastest kid on the team and he's defensive minded first."
Cook says Taylor won't have to play the post as much as he did last season because the 'Hounds are bigger as a team. He's also shooting 3-pointers better as Cook noted that he hit 6 in one scrimmage in Iowa while also penetrating the lane.
"I think he'll be a better player this year," Cook says. "I think he can be All-Conference, to be honest, if he stays within our system. We're looking for big things."
Also looking for time at forward are Marlon Addison (6' 6", Fr., Olathe) and Jamaal McCoy (6' 4", Stone Mountain, Ga.).
"Marlon has grown a couple of inches since he's got here," Cook says. "He's still learning what we want to have him do on the perimeter. In high school, most of the time, he was in the high post but we're putting him on the wing a little bit. Jamaal is an undersized power forward but he squats 390 and bench presses 250. He's one of those energetic, do-the-dirty-things type player but he can step out and shoot the jump shot as well. We'll need him to average 8-10 points a game and that's a lot in this conference. Eight-to-10 points will get you some looks because this is such a tough conference."
Matt Hanson (6' 8", Fr., Manhattan) appears to have the lead on the post position. Cook says adding a mid-range shot to his arsenal will be a key so that he can draw big defenders outside and open up the lane.
"He's strong," Cook says. "He's a good post player. He had appendicitis about a month ago, so he's just getting back into the groove. The speed of the game has been tough on him right now because in the college game, we're going 90 miles an hour. But he had some big games in the scrimmages in Iowa."
Nathaniel Ward (6' 5", Fr., Waco, Texas), whose teammates call him "Deuce," and Travis Buck (6' 6", Fr., an Iolan who graduated from Crest) are also contenders for spots on the inside.
"(Ward) transferred in from (NCAA Division I) North Texas," Cook said. "He's a great asset to the program both off the court and on the court. He can jump out of the gym but our being a system team is new for him. He's getting into that aspect and coming along great. He's very competitive and will do the little things out on the floor. Travis has put on about 10-15 pounds over the summer. He understands team defense and he's a good rebounder.
"Then after football season, we'll have Alex Barner. I've coached him before. We could go big and put him at the '2', we can do that because he's increased his jump shot. We can put him at small forward. We won't have to put him in the post as much. And I think the success of football will help. When he comes in, he can transfer that success to our basketball team."
Cook sees the Greyhounds as a deeper and more athletic team than last season. The question is if that will be enough on the court
"Does that translate to more wins? No," Cook said. "There's a lot of things that play a factor in that: Team play, tough defense and the ball will have to bounce our way."
|Nov. 4||MISSOURI STATE-WEST PLAINS, 7:30|
|Nov. 5||Weatherford, Texas, 5:30-(a)|
|Nov. 6||Hutchinson, 7:30-(a)|
|Nov. 7||Sterling JV, 3:30-(a)|
|Nov. 13||State Fair, 4-(b)|
|Nov. 14||Northeastern Okla. A&M, 4-(b)|
|Nov. 20||Redlands, Okla., 4-(c)|
|Nov. 21||Clarendon, Texas, 4-(c)|
|Dec. 2||NEOSHO COUNTY, 7:30|
|Dec. 5||at Coffeyville, 7|
|Dec. 11||Missouri State-West Plains, 7-(d)|
|Dec. 12||Arkansas Baptist, 5-(d)|
|Jan. 8||Garden City, 5-(e)|
|Jan. 9||Barton County, 9-(e)|
|Jan. 13||at Allen County, 8|
|Jan. 16||INDEPENDENCE, 4|
|Jan. 18||at Johnson County, 7|
|Jan. 20||COWLEY, 7:30|
|Jan. 23||at Labette, 7:30|
|Jan. 27||at Highland, 7|
|Jan. 30||KANSAS CITY KANSAS, 4|
|Feb. 1||at Neosho County, 8|
|Feb. 3||COFFEYVILLE, 7:30|
|Feb. 6||ALLEN COUNTY, 4|
|Feb. 10||at Independence, 8|
|Feb. 13||JOHNSON COUNTY, 4|
|Feb. 15||HIGHLAND, 7:30|
|Feb. 17||at Cowley, 7|
|Feb. 20||LABETTE, 4|
|Feb. 27||at Kansas City Kansas, 4|
Bold -- Jayhawk Conference-Eastern Division game.
(a) -- Hutchinson Quarterback Classic
(b) -- Allen County Classic, Iola
(c) -- Seward County Classic, Liberal, Kan.
(d) -- Missouri State-West Plains Classic, West Plains, Mo.
(e) -- Jayhawk Shootout, Coffeyville