BC ready for HCAC challenge in 2000-01

November 1, 2000
The Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference is noted around the country as having exceptional men's basketball teams, and hopes are high that Bluffton College will emerge as one of those exceptional teams during the 2000-01 basketball season.

Head Coach Guy Neal, who last season went over the 100 win mark in his career at BC, returns two All-HCAC selections and his entire starting lineup as the Beavers return 87 percent of its scoring offense from last season's squad, which finished 10-15 overall and 2-10 in the league.

"I thought we competed pretty hard night-in and night-out," said Neal about his squad last season. "I also liked our chemistry last season and I have a feeling that our chemistry is strong again this year. Our guys are on the same page and are pulling in the same direction."

Last season BC went 8-5 in November and December and won their second consecutive McDonald's of Bluffton Holiday Tournament during the last week of December. The Beavers were a perfect 6-0 in Founders Hall through the non-league portion of their schedule and won both of their league games at home, including a 94-92 victory over eventual HCAC champion Franklin College who went two rounds deep in the NCAA Division III National Tournament.

"We are in one of the best Division III basketball conferences in the country from top to bottom," said Neal. "There are no weak programs in the HCAC and every single game is a challenge. However, we believe that we are ready to take another step in the right direction within the HCAC."

Leading the charge this winter will be senior post player Jeremy Roberts, who averaged 20.0 points per game last season to go with 6.4 rebounds and a .581 shooting percentage on his way to picking up his second straight first team All-HCAC honor. Roberts� point total led the league and was ranked 41st in the country as he went over the 1,000 point mark for his career during Bluffton's win over Franklin.

Senior point guard Chris Sheldon is also back after leading the HCAC in assists last season with 115 and earning honorable mention All-HCAC status. He averaged 5.5 points per game and hit 43 percent of his 3-point attempts and 83 percent of his free throws. Senior post player Ben Coole is also back after averaging 13 points per game and an HCAC-best 1.6 blocks per game. Coole's .605 field goal percentage also led the HCAC and was ranked 16th in the country. Roberts, Sheldon and Coole shared the BC Offensive MVP award.

1999-2000 BC Defensive MVP Travis Elsass, a junior wing player, also returns. His 39 steals led the team and he added 9.6 points per game and he joined Roberts on the All-Tournament Team in McDonald's Holiday Tournament. Senior wing/post player Chad Cramer (8.3 ppg, 3.8 rpg) and junior wing Rod Overmyer (11.0 ppg) split time at the other starting spot and both return this season. Overmyer's 2.55 3-point field goals per game led the league.

"We must defend better as a team than we have the last two seasons," said Neal pointing to several items that he feels BC needs to improve on to make a run at the HCAC title. "At the offensive end, we feel we have to offensive rebound much better and shoot free throws better as a team."

Last season the Beavers ranked third in the HCAC in shooting percentage and second in the league in 3-point shooting accuracy. BC had six player hit double-digit treys, led by Overmyer's 56, Cramer's 31 and Sheldon's 26.

Coole, Cramer, Roberts and Sheldon have given senior leadership in the off-season that Neal thinks will pay off throughout the season. "I thought that our team worked hard in preparation for last season," said Neal, "and I feel that they have done a good job in this area again this off-season."

Other returning players include junior guard Kevin Grey, sophomore post player Michael Leimeister and sophomore guards Derek DeNero and Marcus Bixler. Freshmen candidates include Chris Beyer (6-7, Firelands H.S.), Aaron Markley (6-4, Lima/Bath H.S.), Scott Remaklus (5-10, Lorain Southview H.S.), Trevor Thomas (5-11, Greeneview H.S.) and Ryan White (5-11, Swanton H.S.).