CHICKASHA – A brand new season brings new excitement — and new expectations — for the Drover men’s basketball team while they transition with new coaches and a handful of newcomers.
Former assistant Vinson Metcalf took over the program this summer and is looking forward to his first season at the helm.
“My expectation is for us to be competitive and see what happens after that,” he said.
To help him lead the Drovers to success, Metcalf found assistant coach Chris Francis, a former Roger State starter and assistant at LSU-Shreveport.
“Coach Francis has done an unbelievable job thus far,” Metcalf said. “With me here in the past, I’ve had to teach a lot of classes, and I didn’t get a chance to go and individually work out the kids as much as I would have liked. It has worked wonders for our program. The guys have responded to him.”
Between a stacked conference and a new coach, the Drovers were picked eighth in the Sooner Athletic Conference in the Preseason Coaches Poll. Despite a trip to the 2013 NAIA Men’s Basketball National Championship tournament, the Drovers did not appear in the NAIA Preseason Poll.
“I’ve said all along, it’s just a prediction. No one has seen my team play. I haven’t seen anyone else play. I don’t really look at that as much,” Metcalf said. “That’s why you play the game, to offset those predictions.”
Metcalf used the rankings to motivate his team and to encourage them to come together because team chemistry leads to success, he said.
“Our goals are to be competitive and try to be higher than our preseason rankings and just try to come together as a team because I think if we do that, we will have the success,” Metcalf said. “That builds character, that builds championships.”
USAO will be playing without NAIA All-American Norris Rumph, who finished off his career at the university last season, or All-Sooner Athletic Conference Third Team recipient Brandon Cutler.
But the Drovers do have some experience coming back for a senior season. The Drovers will be returning two starters from last year’s squad — Shavon Scott and Jahseth Lloyd. Lloyd will not be eligible to play until the second semester, however.
Metcalf described Scott as “the glue” of this year’s team. Scott led the 2012-13 team in minutes and was second on the team in total points with 213 and total rebounds with 156. He also led the team in steals with 34 and was second in assists with 56.
Lloyd led last year’s team in rebounds with 185 and blocks with 32. He had two double-doubles last season, including one against now-SAC opponent Texas Wesleyan.
Returning three other players and a redshirt from last season, Metcalf and Francis spent time recruiting junior college players the help round out the team.
“You don’t know what to expect bringing in nine new players and returning five or six kids,” Metcalf said. “My biggest concern is getting those guys to buy into the way we want to play. As soon as the chemistry is established we can see how many wins we can put together.”
Four of USAO’s newcomers stood out to Metcalf as immediately making an impact on his team — Markens Charles, Tyler Reynolds, Donnie Brown and Anthony Bolton.
“One of our biggest newcomers, not in statue but in productivity, is Markens Charles,” Metcalf said. “He is a very good basketball player, a pass first kind of point guard. He told me he wanted to lead the nation in assists.”
Bolton is a 6-foot-5 transfer from Blinn College who Metcalf will look to for significant contribution, in addition to Reynolds, a senior from the University of Texas Permain-Basin, who Metcalf said will be put into position to shoot the basketball and make some points for the team.
“We also have an explosive player in Donnie Brown,” Metcalf said. “He can really shoot the basketball and defend. Those are the four players who we expect to have an immediate impact.”
Playing in the tough Sooner Athletic Conference didn’t get any easier with the recent changes in the conference. The SAC boasts two schools — Oklahoma Baptist and Southwestern Assemblies of God — in the top five of the NAIA rankings and another — John Brown — in the top 15.
Metcalf, however, has a plan to stay competitive in the conference: an equally as tough non-conference schedule. USAO faces No. 2 LSU-Shreveport in its second game of the season, No. 24 Our Lady of the Lake later in November and several NCAA Division II teams.
“We don’t shy away from that challenge because it helps us when we get into conference,” Metcalf said.
The Drovers open the season on the road to NCAA Division II Northwestern Oklahoma State on Oct. 30 and at (2) LSUS on Nov. 2.
USAO’s first home game will be against NCAA Division II Central Oklahoma on Nov. 5. Tip off is scheduled for 7 p.m. It also will be USAO’s Homecoming game and the Student Activities Board will be crowning its Homecoming King and Queen at halftime.
USAO is offering free high-definition live streaming of all its home games on the school's sports website.