CHICKASHA – The outlook is positive for Coach Brisco McPherson and the team he’s assembled for the 2011-12 season.
A strong core set of returners beefed up with what he describes as one of his better recruiting classes, McPherson is ready to see what the season has in store.
The Drovers have eight returners, including three major playmakers in Trell Porter, Phillip Harris and Graham Faulkner.
“We think they’ve become better players over the summer,” McPherson said of his returners. “They’ve already shown in practice that they’re a little more mature and they’re doing things a little better than they were doing in the past. Those guys we look for leadership from and I think they provide it in practice so far.”
But the returners won’t be pulling the load alone.
“We’re excited about the guys we have coming in,” McPherson said. “We’ve tried to get a little more athletic group in.”
A 6-foot-10 recruit from Middle Tennessee will bring athleticism to the inside, something McPherson and assistant coach Vinson Metcalf are particularly excited about.
“We feel like Kyle is a good athletic kid, and that is what we were missing last year inside,” McPherson said. “He’s really gifted. He can do a lot of things, and so he’s a match up for probably a lot for people. He’s going to be a guy we really count on to get us over the hump.”
Coaches also pointed out Javier Ramos from Clarendon College, Norris Rumph from North Dakota State College of Science and Brandon Cutler from Stephen F. Austin as other players who will come in and immediately make a huge difference on the team.
“Just like we go into every season our expectations for our basketball team are very high,” Metcalf said. “We think we have assembled a good group of kids. We are just as talented as we’ve been during those national championship days but we have go out and play.”
The Drovers have a tough road ahead of them this season, even before conference begins. In just their second game of the season, USAO will face off against LSU-Shreveport, listed No. 6 in the NAIA preseason rankings. Also on the schedule are some NCAA Division II teams like Cameron and Central Oklahoma.
“The thing about this year’s schedule is probably tougher than it needs to be,” McPherson said. “When you play those teams, you’ll be battle tested. By the time the conference comes, we feel like we’ll be tough enough to compete and win.”
And that is just the way Metcalf likes it.
“You want to play good teams,” he said. “We’re not going to bring a team in here and beat them by 50. You don’t learn anything from those games.”
Ranked eighth in preseason Sooner Athletic Conference polls, the Drovers will be prepared to face their tough SAC competitors, including Oklahoma Baptist, a team that won the conference two years in a row and took home a national title in 2010.
“I think it’s a more balanced league this year,” McPherson said. “It will be tough for OBU to do what they did last year.”
The goal for the Drover coaches is the same each year: National Tournament.
“We, of course, want to make it to the national tournament. That has always been our goal,” McPherson said. “That gives you a chance to win the championship.”
The Drovers open the season at a tournament at Saint Gregory’s on Friday and Saturday before playing their first home game on Wednesday against Central Oklahoma. Tip off is 7 p.m.