Growing pains over for BC in 1999-2000

By Tim Stried, SID
October 26, 1999


It was a season of growing pains for the Bluffton College men's basketball team last winter in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference. With a year of experience under their belt, however, the story should be different in 1999-2000.

"We were in many close games last season and seemed to come up short most of the time," described Head Coach Guy Neal of last season's campaign. In fourteen HCAC contests last season, BC came up short fourteen times and finished the season 5-19 overall. "We feel that if we are once again competitive and within striking distance in many of our conference games that we will turn close losses into hard fought wins this year," said the 11th year BC mentor.

Junior center Jeremy Roberts echoed those comments. "Last season a lot of people just looked at the win-loss column, but we had a lot of close games," said the preseason All-HCAC selection who averaged 17.4 points and 6.3 rebounds per game last season.

Last season BC lost four HCAC games in overtime, including one in double overtime, and all together dropped seven league contests by just seven points or less. A 5-4 non-league record was the bright spot for BC, including the championship trophy in the McDonald's of Bluffton Holiday Tournament last December.

Roberts will again be the main man on offense for the Beavers, but he's not the only weapon in Coach Neal's arsenal. "A balanced offense must start with a strong inside game, so Jeremy will be a big part of what we do," said Neal, "but when you have balance between the inside and the outside of your offense you are harder to defend."

And the assignment of running that balanced offense will be handed to Bluffton's three returning guards, senior Darnell Parker (8.8 ppg, 2.0 ast.), junior Chris Sheldon (6.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg) and junior Alberto Arroyo (4.0 ppg). Parker started 23 games last season, hitting a team-high 34 three-point field goals and shooting 84% from the free throw line. He twice led BC in scoring, including their season opening 78-57 win over Alfred when he dropped in 18 points.

Sheldon started 12 games last season and hit 23 of 25 free throws, while Arroyo started six games and hit 18 three pointers, fourth best on the team. Also back on the perimeter is junior Chad Cramer, who started 15 games last season, averaging 6.8 points per game and canning 27 treys.

"I feel like we are an improved team from last year," said Neal. "Our commitment in the off-season was good, the togetherness of the players is strong and their attitude has been positive and very determined."

Roberts agreed. "I feel real positive about it. We have a lot of experienced players returning and having been through the HCAC once will really help."

Graduated from last year's squad are two regular starters, 6-5 post player Dan Gudorf (10.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg) and wing Nate Morris (4.7 ppg). Also graduated are three reserves from 1998-99, Mallory Nixon (4.7 ppg), Derrick Wills (2.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg), and Kevin Morris (1.9 ppg). All three started several games throughout the season, as did wing Lott Carter who will also not be returning for his senior season due to a career ending knee injury in the off-season.

Back in the program this season is 6-5 post player Ben Coole, a top reserve in 1997-98 who sat out last season. Up from the reserve squad are three sophomore wing players: Kevin Grey, Rod Overmyer, and Greg Rossman, as well as junior post player Eric Wilson. Newcomers include University of Rio Grande transfer Travis Elsass (Wapakoneta, OH/Jackson Center HS) along with freshmen Marcus Bixler (Arcanum, OH/Franklin Monroe HS), Derek DeNero (Mansfield, OH/Crestview HS), Chad Hamilton (Leesburg, OH/Fairfield Local HS), Justin Julian (Tipp City, OH/Tippecanoe HS), Allan King (Attica, OH/Seneca East HS), Mike Lemeister (Milan, OH/Edison HS) and Andy Pierce (Cincinnati, OH/New Richmond HS).