NewsCougars Ready to Tip off 2004-2005 Hoops Campaign
written by Dave Parsons, Sports Information Director
MOUNT VERNON, Ohio - Over the past eight seasons, the Mount Vernon Nazarene University men’s basketball team has topped the 20-win mark seven times as the Cougars have posted a 189-81 overall record (.700 winning percentage).
During that span, MVNU has had eight different players earn NAIA Division II All-American status while the Cougars have competed in three NAIA Division II national tournaments and three National Christian College Athletic Association national Tournaments. MVNU won its first NCCAA national title in 2001-2002 with a win over NCAA Division I Gardner-Webb (N.C.) University, and the Cougars finished as the NCCAA national runner-up in 2003-2004 with a 23-13 overall record.
Now, the team is preparing for the 2004-2005 season with a roster that features just one senior and three juniors with varsity playing experience. However, despite the roster filled with youth, head coach Scott Flemming is upbeat about his squad.
"We are bringing back a team with only one senior, but I feel we have some younger players who already have a good amount of experience,” said Flemming, who is entering his fifteenth season at MVNU with a 278-182 record at the school. "Our team is a little different than in years past. We don’t have as much depth at the post and point guard spots, but we have several players who are versatile enough to play two or three positions. There may be a smaller line-up on the floor most of the time because of this. There may be match-up problems, but we hope to use this to our advantage.”
Benji Hall returns to lead the Cougars as the team’s only senior. The 6-foot-2 forward averaged 9.3 points and 3.3 rebounds per game last year to go with a team-leading 25 blocked shots as he started 28 games. "We are hoping for a strong senior season from Benji,” said Flemming. "He has all the tools to be an impact player for us at the small forward position.”
Junior Alan Bock (5-foot-6) returns to run the MVNU offense from the point guard position with two years of experience under his belt. Last season, Bock led the Cougars and ranked ninth in the American Mideast Conference with 150 assists. He also averaged 2.9 points and 2.1 rebounds per game.
Junior Andrew Thompson (6-foot) will look to move into the shooting guard spot for MVNU after averaging 7.2 points per game and finishing second on the team with 46 three-pointers made in 2003-2004. Junior forward Nick Zarley (6-foot-4) saw action in 21 games for the Cougars last year, while junior forwards Chris VanSchepen (6-foot-5) and Josh Haumschild (6-foot-6) will join the varsity team after two years each on the junior varsity squad.
Sophomores Mark Hess and Ryan Seesholtz both return after making large contributions in their first collegiate season that saw each of them earn AMC South Division All-Freshmen Team honors with Hess being chosen as the AMC South Division Freshman of the Year. A 6-foot-6 post, Hess averaged 12.6 points and 8.0 rebounds per game, while Seesholtz, a 6-foot-4 wing, averaged 5.6 points and 3.4 rebounds and is capable of playing at least three different positions.
Sophomore center Steve Mayes (7-foot) will be counted on to contribute this year after seeing limited action off the bench as a freshman. He blocked 15 shots in 23 games and averaged 1.8 points and 1.1 rebounds. Sophomore Jaren Coldren, a 5-foot-9 guard, will move up from the junior varsity team and fill the role as the team’s back-up point guard with the loss of junior Bryan Wyant to off-season knee surgery.
Freshmen Evan Yates and Josh Smith will both have an opportunity to contribute for the Cougars off the bench. Yates, a 6-foot-5 forward from Lucasville, Ohio, averaged 18.0 points and 7.0 rebounds as a senior at Valley High School and was named to the All-Southern Ohio Conference First Team and the All-Ohio Special Mention Team. Smith, a 6-foot shooting guard from Johnstown, Ohio, averaged 17.5 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 3.8 steals as a senior at Johnstown-Monroe High School as he was selected to the All-Ohio First Team and named the Central District Player of the Year.
The Cougars will open up the regular season at the Indiana Wesleyan University Tournament on November 5-6 with their first game against Berea (Ky.) College, who received votes in the NAIA Division II preseason poll. Then, following a non-conference game at Ohio State University-Newark on November 9, MVNU will host Trinity Christian (Ill.) College and Daemen (N.Y.) College, ranked 12th in NAIA Division II, on November 12-13 as part of the annual Homecoming weekend activities.
The Cougars will be tested every time they take the floor in the AMC South Division, where the team finished second in 2003-2004 with a 13-5 mark. MVNU was picked to finish fifth in the AMC South Division this year in the coaches’ poll, and the team will play home and away games against Cedarville University (4th in NAIA Division II), University of Rio Grande (receiving votes), Ohio Dominican University, Walsh University, Shawnee State University, Malone College, Urbana University, Tiffin University, and Wilberforce University.
In addition to the conference schedule, MVNU will also play non-conference games against Ashland University, Ohio Valley (W.V.) College, Ohio State University-Marion, Roberts Wesleyan (N.Y.) College, and Houghton (N.Y.) College. The team will also host the annual Food for the Hungry Holiday Invitational with Cornerstone (Mich.) University (ranked 17th in NAIA Division II), Indiana University-Northwest, and Marygrove (Mich.) College making up the tournament field.