By Andrew Preston
The Trojans men’s basketball team will tip off their season Nov. 5 with four returning players and 11 new recruits.
Of the 15 Trojans on Head Coach Sam Harris’s roster, only four players returned, and perhaps the biggest loss is the graduation of Great Midwest Athletic Conference (G-MAC) Player of Year Byron Sanford who led last year’s team with 18.3 points per game, 7.5 rebounds per game, assists with 133 and steals with 55.
“We knew it was coming going into last year. We have a good recruiting class coming in, but it is just going to take them a little time to gel,” said Harris.
A strong defensive and an up-tempo offense will make the young team exciting to watch, Harris said.
Mark Elliott, director of athletics, offered his own suggestion on the incoming recruiting class.
“It’s such a facelift. After having graduated eight seniors from last year, what coach Harris has done is recruited a group of remarkably good athletes,” said Elliott.
Elliott compared the freshman recruiting class to presents on Christmas.
“It’s kind of like a Christmas present underneath the tree. You know you have a present, you know it’s there, you know you are going to unwrap it on Christmas Day, but you really don’t know what’s inside the present,” said Elliott.
This season, the Trojans have brought in eight freshman, a pair of sophomores from Kenya and a junior transfer to add to the four returnees to make up the 15-man roster.
“Anytime you lose the conference player of the year, there’s a hole to fill. The biggest thing we will miss from him is his ability to rebound the ball defensively for his size,” said Harris.
The Trojans lost to Kentucky Wesleyan College last season in the G-MAC championship game 78–69.
Harris said the loss in part can be blamed on the inability to rebound the ball. In his recruiting for this season, his goal was to get bigger.
“This year we tried to find bigger wings, which led us to Devin [Whitefield] and Michael Thompson, [both freshman guards]. We got those two big wings to start with and then got Cameron Paulding [freshman forward], a really good athlete and good defensive player. We kind of looked at those three guys as being a nucleus of this freshman class coming in,” said Harris.
Percy Blade, who graduated last year, is using his final year of eligibility as a graduate student after transferring to Trevecca his sophomore year.
Harris is looking to him to be the leader.
“Anytime a student athlete graduates they have to decide what they want to do—what their next step is. I am glad that Percy decided to come back and play. Being the only senior, you get the chance to lead a bunch of new players into what we would like our legacy to be. I think Percy will do a good job in leading us,” said Harris.
The Trojans have added several competitive games to this seasons schedule. Most notably is when they travel across town on Feb. 21 to face Division I opponent Belmont.
Division II powerhouse University of Alabama-Huntsville, as well as future G-MAC opponent, University of Findlay, will compete in a home and home series this year too.
“The reason we scheduled the [University of Findlay] is because they are going to be a new member [of the G-MAC]. I think it is important that we got the chance to play them to kind of get a feel for playing at their place and also how they’ll play on the road,” said Harris.
Harris also noted the importance of challenging their future G-MAC rival was to get a feel for the travel time, in addition to what restaurants and hotels are able to accommodate a group of his size.
The goal for the Trojans season this year is to win the G-MAC championship and get an automatic berth into the NCAA D-II tournament for the first time in the program’s five-year G-MAC history.
“I think you have to get to the championship game before you can win it. We’ve played in the finals twice and the semi-finals a few times too. Our goal this year is to get to the conference championship game and win it. That’s always our goal,” said Harris.
The team’s focus, as always, will be on training the whole player, he said.
“Playing basketball here at Trevecca is more than just playing basketball. It’s about producing graduates that understand their call, what God has called them to do with their life and that they do it to the best of their abilities,” said Harris.
The Trojans begin their season on Homecoming with a scrimmage against Midway University on Nov. 5.
Nov. 5 4 p.m. vs. Midway University
Nov. 11 5 p.m. @ Maryville University-St. Louis
Nov. 12 2 p.m. vs. Truman State University
Nov. 16 7 p.m. @ Christian Brothers
Nov. 19 4 p.m. vs. University of Findlay
Nov. 22 8 p.m. vs. Maryville University-St. Louis
Nov. 26 4 p.m. vs. McKendree University
Nov. 29 7 p.m. @ Alabama-Huntsville
Dec. 3 4 p.m. vs. Christian Brothers
Dec. 8 7 p.m. @ University of Missouri-St. Louis
Dec. 10 7 p.m. @ McKendree University
Dec. 12 5 p.m. vs. Alabama-Huntsville
Dec. 17 4 p.m. vs. St. Joseph’s College
Dec. 19 7 p.m. vs. University of Missouri-St. Louis
Dec. 29 6:30 p.m. @ University of Findlay
Jan. 5 6:45 p.m. @ Cedarville University
Jan. 7 3 p.m. @ Ohio Valley Univ.
Jan. 12 8 p.m. vs. Malone University
Jan. 14 4 p.m. vs. Auburn-Montgomery
Jan. 19 8 p.m. vs. Alderson Broaddus Univ.
Jan. 21 4 p.m. vs. Davis & Elkins College
Jan. 28 3:15 p.m. @ Kentucky Wesleyan College
Feb. 1 7 p.m. @ Auburn-Montgomery
Feb. 4 2 p.m. @ Malone University
Feb. 9 6:30 p.m. @ Davis & Elkins College
Feb. 11 3 p.m. @ Alderson Broaddus Univ.
Feb. 16 8 p.m. vs. Ohio Valley Univ.
Feb. 18 4 p.m. vs. Cedarville University
Feb. 21 TBA @ Belmont University
Feb. 25 4 p.m. vs. Kentucky Wesleyan College