After compiling one of the best overall records in the NAIA over the past five seasons, the Mount Vernon Nazarene College men's basketball team will look to a veteran senior class to continue the winning tradition as the 2001-2002 season gets under way.
Over the past five years, the Cougars have compiled a 122-44 record (.735 winning percentage). MVNC has made three appearances in the NAIA Division II national tournament during that span, won two American Mideast Conference Tournament titles, and earned the program's only regular-season conference title. The team has also consistently been ranked in the NAIA Division II national poll.
Now, with a solid senior class and some talented underclassmen filling out the roster, expectations for continuing the program's winning tradition is high.
"We are excited about the potential this team has," said MVNC head coach Scott Flemming, who enters his twelfth season at the helm of the Cougars with a 211-145 record at the school. "Now, it is important that we take that potential and develop a highly-competitive basketball team from it. We have a good balance of upperclassmen and younger players. Our four seniors will play a major role on this year's team."
"People can expect to see an up-tempo style of basketball again from the Cougars," Flemming added. "We had a stretch of about four years where we were one of the top defensive teams in our conference. That was not the case last year, and we are working hard to get back to our stingy half-court defense that took us to several championships. We have the opportunity to play a lot of players throughout the course of a game, and this should keep fresh legs on the floor without dropping the quality of the lineup."
Leading MVNC in the 2001-2002 season will be senior forward Kenny Chaffin. The 6-foot-6 post player put together one of the best scoring seasons in school history last year as he averaged 22.1 points and set single-season school records for points (730) and field goals made (284). He also averaged 7.2 rebounds per game and blocked a team-high 57 shots. Chaffin was an AMC First Team choice and was selected as an NAIA Division II Honorable Mention All-American for the second year in a row.
Chad Vorhis, Andy Gast, and Lenny Foyer round out the experienced senior class. After serving as the back-up point guard last season, Vorhis (5-9) will get his opportunity to run the show this year. The former walk-on at the University of Dayton played in all 33 games for the Cougars a year ago and handed out 103 assists. He also led the team by shooting 90.9 percent at the free throw line.
Gast, a 6-foot guard, is coming off his best season yet in 2000-2001 when he averaged 11.9 points and was fifth in the AMC in three-point accuracy at 42.5 percent (68-of-160). Foyer, a 6-foot-4 forward, averaged 6.8 points and 4.1 rebounds per game, and he shot 58.4 percent from the field.
"We have four solid seniors on the team this season," said Flemming. "Kenny (Chaffin) will continue to be a force inside. Lenny (Foyer) is the proto-typical blue collar player who can play several positions. Andy (Gast) is not only a scoring guard, but he is probably our best defensive player. Chad (Vorhis) is an experienced point guard who should have a great senior year leading this team."
Phil Argento, a 6-foot-2 shooting guard, highlights the junior class. Argento averaged 16.0 points per game and nailed a team-high 108 three-pointers last season as he was an AMC Honorable Mention pick. After just two seasons, Argento has recorded 954 points and needs just 46 more points to join the 1,000-point club.
Junior forwards Konrod Morris (6-foot-3) and Brad Moser (6-foot-3) will both add to the depth that MVNC has. Morris averaged 9.2 points and 4.8 rebounds per game during his breakout sophomore season, while Moser averaged 5.8 points in his first season after transferring from Bethel (Ind.) College.
Sophomores Matt Hilbert, Dan Weston, and Chip Wilson each return with one year of college action under their belts. Hilbert, a 6-foot-7 center, averaged 2.1 points and 1.6 rebounds per game last season, while Weston, a 6-foot-4 forward added 1.3 points and 1.9 rebounds per contest.
Three newcomers have also joined the Cougars for the 2001-2002 campaign. Sophomore guard Andy Dunn (6-foot-1) transferred to MVNC after playing at Olivet Nazarene (Ill.) University last year. He averaged 13.1 points per game as a senior at Lakota West High School.
Freshman post Anthony Delimpo (6-foot-7) should make an immediate impact for the Cougars on the inside after averaging 17 points and 11 rebounds per game as a senior at Chesapeake High School. He was a Second Team All-Ohioan and the Division III Coaches' Player of the Year in his final year of high school.
Benji Hall, a 6-foot-2 freshman guard, will also see plenty of playing time after averaging 21 points per game as a senior at Ontario High School. Hall was a First Team All-Ohio selection and the North Central Conference and District 6 Player of the Year last year.
MVNC will be tested every time out in the highly-competitive AMC that includes defending champion the University of Rio Grande, who is ranked sixth in the NAIA Division II preseason poll. The Cougars, who are ranked 19th in the preseason poll, will begin the year at the MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.) University Tournament against the host Pioneers, who are ranked ninth in the preseason poll. The team will also host the Cougar Homecoming Classic and the Food for the Hungry Holiday Invitational in addition to traveling to the Wheaton (Ill.) College Tournament where the field includes Cardinal Stritch (Wis.) University, ranked 11th in the preseason poll.