By: Con Marshall, CSC Sports Information
CHADRON, Neb. -- November 4, 2019 -- This year's Chadron State College's men's basketball team has lots of promise, Coach Houston Reed believes.
The 17-man squad is a mix of returnees, transfers and freshmen. Reed is optimistic about each segment. He said the players have a strong work ethic, versatility, "want to be good" and shoot the ball well.
"I think we'll shoot better than we did last year, and I'll be disappointed if we don't make the (RMAC) playoffs," said Reed, who is in his fourth year as the Eagles' mentor. "This is a good group. They're good people and six of them have vertical jumps of at least 39-inch. I think we'll be able to rebound."
CSC finished 12-16 overall and 10-12 in the conference last year, one spot from the playoffs. Five seniors were on that team. There are only three on this year's roster.
The Eagles will open the season this coming weekend (Nov. 8-9) by playing Texas A&M International in Laredo and Texas A&M-Kingsville. CSC has no home games are scheduled before Nov. 30 and just three will be played in the Chicoine Center prior to January 10.
Reed says the early schedule is tough, but it should help prepare his team for RMAC road trips.
The most experienced players the small, spunky senior guards, Colby Jackson and Michael Sparks, who do everything going full force.
Jackson led the RMAC with 96 assists through the 2018-19 regular season while averaging 9.5 points. Sparks shot 39 percent (56-144) from 3-point range and averaged 10.9 points. Reed said he probably won't play them at the same time often, but appreciates their leadership and gung-ho spirit.
The other returnees are bigger and also are dangerous shooters. They are juniors Walker Andrew and Brady Delimont and sophomores Jacob Jefferson and Kayden Sund. All are at least 6-5.
Each spent lots of time working on his game this summer and has improved, the coach said.
"I anticipate that Andrew and Jefferson will start and they'll all play more this winter, giving us good minutes," Reed noted.
In particular, the coach expects Jefferson to make a big contribution as the starting center.
The 6-7, 240-pound Arizona native not only gives the Eagles a big body in the middle, he also is a sharp-shooter from the perimeter. Last season he sank 17 of his 32 3-point attempts.
Delimont has a different situation. He can drill the ball from afar and made 34 of 89 treys (38.2 percent) last year, but he wants to expand his game. During the off-season he concentrated on improving his ball handling and the ability to take the ball to the rim so defenders will have something else to worry about. It will be good for the Eagles if the Ainsworth native can draw fouls on his way to the hoop. He was 22-25 at the line last season.
Redshirt freshman Devin Buderus of Scottsbluff also has made the travel squad after demonstrating defensive toughness and ability to take the ball to the basket.
Reed also has high expectations from the transfers. At least four of them are expected to get lots of playing time.
They include Brian Rodriguez, a 6-4 senior who has been an impressive shooter during the pre-season and can play either forward or off-guard. He spent last year at San Jose State and scored in double figures against both Colorado State and the Air Force Academy.
The other transfers are juniors. Kenan Gray, 6-6, 225, is a force around the hoop and is expected to share playing time with Jefferson at the post. At 6-5, Dominic Coleman gives the Eagles a tall guard and the multi-talented Stephon Bell, 6-3, has a 41-inch vertical jump, can score from both inside and outside and was the leading scorer (11.7 points) and rebounder (6.2) at Antelope Valley College in California last season.
The four freshmen have bright futures, Reed believes. Each was named the outstanding player in his conference last season.
They include Andre Sepeda of Greeley West, who's just 5-8, but Reed says is "the most game-ready freshman I've ever had."
"He's quick and makes shots," the coach said. "He'll have a great opportunity to develop more this season while playing alongside Colby and Michael."
Sepeda averaged 14.9 points while playing in 98 games during his high school career.
Both of the other Colorado recruits are at least 6-8. Kevin DiMarco is from Coal Ridge on the Western Slope and averaged 17.3 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.8 blocks last season while Jax Wilke averaged 12.4 points, 8.2 rebounds and 3.6 assists at Mead High near Longmont.
"Both of our freshman bigs have bright futures," Reed said. "They haven't been pushed around like happens in college hoops so they need time to grow and develop. We'll redshirt one and play the other this year. We're glad they're on our team. Both can be special."
The fourth freshman is Gage Delimont, Brady's younger brother who averaged 22 points at Ainsworth last season.
This will be the third year in a row that the Eagles have opened the season by playing the Texas A&M teams. The Texas teams won both games two years ago on their home courts while the Eagles beat International, but lost to Kingsville a year ago when they played in Chadron.