By: Andrew Korba
The Hiram College men's basketball team enters the 2015-16 season with hopes of making a return trip to the NCAC Tournament and beyond.
Second-year head coach Chris Kibler welcomes back a strong core from last season's team that went 11-14 overall and 5-13 in the NCAC. The season saw the best start for the team in over 40 years and its first season sweep of Wittenberg in program history.
Employing a high energy and a no positions philosophy, Kibler will look to his 10 letter winners and handful of newcomers to come together.
Here is how the Terriers stack up in 2015-16:
Hiram welcomes back its top five scorers from last season led by senior J.J. Woodson (Oakwood Village, Ohio/Bedford). In 2014-15 he earned Second Team All-NCAC honors, leading the Terriers in scoring at 16.6 ppg, while shooting .479 from the field.
Also back is junior Jeremiah Thomas (Cleveland, Ohio/John Hay) and sophomore Kelvin Jones (Sheffield Lake, Ohio/Brookside). Thomas enjoyed a breakout season that saw him finish in a tie for second on the team in both scoring (8.4 ppg) and rebounding (4.6 rpg). Jones enjoyed a nice first season that saw him average 8.4 ppg and lead the team in rebounding at 6.0 rpg. In addition, Jones shot .603 from the field, which was fifth best in single season program history.
Senior Ray Gaston (Warren, Ohio/John F. Kennedy) and junior Kyle Deckerd (Canton, Ohio/Louisville) both return for the Terriers after posting career-bests in scoring last season. Gaston averaged 6.0 ppg, while pulling down 4.6 rpg. Deckerd averaged 8.2 ppg, shooting .331 from beyond the arc and leading the team with 40 assists.
Senior Austen Rekolt (Salem, Ohio/West Branch) returns after leading the team with 33 steals and finishing second on the roster in assists (36). Sophomore Trey Sanders (Shaker Heights, Ohio/Beachwood) also is back after coming on strong in the second half of last season.
The Terriers also welcome back juniors Joe Caspio (Willowick, Ohio/Eastlake North) and Joe Zoltowski (Erie, Pa./Harbor Creek) and sophomores Raishawn Boykin (Youngstown, Ohio/East) and Jake Williams (Akron, Ohio/Akron Ellet) who can all play multiple position and provide depth on the court.
Hiram also welcomes in a talented group of newcomers. Transfers Ryan Greenwood (Fairport Harbor, Ohio/Fairport Harding), Isaiah Matthews (Columbia, S.C./Eastridge) and Paul Ortiz (Canton, Ohio/McKinley Senior) all enter the equation and will look to contribute right away. Factor in freshman Eli Kalil (Ashtabula, Ohio/Edgewood) and the Terriers have a nice group of newcomers with plenty of talent.
Hiram's schedule will be difficult for the upcoming season, featuring just nine home games.
The Terriers will tipoff the campaign with a visit to Division I foe Akron on November 16. Hiram will follow that up by taking part in the Westminster (Pa.) Classic, taking on Thiel (Pa.) on November 20 and the host Titans on Novemver 21. Other non-conference contests include road games at Otterbein and La Roche (Pa.) and a spot in the Bluffton Holiday Tournament on December 29 and 30, where the Terriers will open play against Illinois College.
The Terriers will open up NCAC play with two straight road games at Allegheny (Pa.) on December 2 at 8 p.m. and at Kenyon on December 5 at 3 p.m. Hiram will open its home and conference schedule on December 12 against No. 13-ranked and NCAC preseason favorite Ohio Wesleyan at 2 p.m.
Hiram closes out the season on Feb. 20 with a home contest against rival Wittenberg that will begin at 4 p.m.
With a tough schedule that features some early season tests, the Hiram College men's basketball team will be ready to go from day one. Kibler knows that the NCAC is one of the toughest conferences in Divsion III but sees the potential in his team heading into the 2015-16 season.