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Cougar men set to tip off new campaign tonight
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Gone is All-American, Jayhawk West MVP, and all-everything Ahmad Walker. Also gone is nearly 80 percent of the scoring from last season.
That is life in junior college basketball.
Craig Fletchall is a veteran at dealing with it. He enters his 11th season as the helm of the Barton men’s basketball team and his 16th overall in the junior college ranks.
So for the winningest coach in Barton history, this is old hat.
“That is just part of coaching in junior college basketball,” Coach Fletchall said. “You always have turnover. Some years more than other. This year we have two starters back but we are going to rely on a lot of new faces.”
His team will get its first test this weekend when they take part in the Best Western/Pizza Hut Classic at the Barton Gym. The Cougars will battle Otero College (Colo.) tonight and Sunrise Prep Academy out of Wichita Saturday. Both games will tip at approximately 7:30 p.m.
Not only will Barton have several new faces this season it will be in a new conference – so to speak.
No longer is there a Jayhawk West and Jayhawk East. With a handful of schools now playing NJCAA Division II the conference has broken into division I and division II levels.
So the Cougars will be part of a 14-team conference. Teams will play 19 conference games starting in December.
The Cougars will play six teams twice – Garden City, Dodge City, Colby, Seward County, Cloud County and Hutchinson. Barton will play the other seven teams once – Pratt, Butler, Cowley, Allen County, Independence, Neosho County and Coffeyville.
A few of the new rules to adjust to will be a 30-second shot clock and the closely guarded 5-second count is no longer in effect.
The leading returning scorer for the Cougars this season will be Tyrone Acuff. Acuff, a 6-6 sophomore from Detroit, started 26 games for the 24-7 Cougars last season. He averaged 10.6 points per contest and grabbed 3.9 boards per game.
Also back is starting post player Eddie Hunt. Hunt, a 6-7 forward from Topeka, scored 4.7 points a game and grabbed 4.8 boards. He started 21 games for Barton as a freshman.
Jordan Windholz from Hays and Demarco White from Michigan also return. Windholz scored 2.6 and White 1.6 per game.
Fletchall looks for Windholz to make a much larger impact this season.
“He put in a lot of time over the summer to get better,” Coach Fletchall said. “He is probably our best perimeter shooter and will more than likely start for us.”
A new face looking to make an impact will be Rico Thompson. The 5-11 sophomore point guard transferred from Iowa Western where he averaged 12 points a game last season.
A pair of freshman Fletchall will look to for production are Ezekiel Charles and Anthony Smith. Charles is a 6-3 guard from Brooklyn and Smith a 6-6 wing from Suitland, Mary.
“Ezekiel is a solid wing who can score a lot of different ways,” Coach Fletchall said. “Anthony played on the Maryland state championship team as a junior then blew out an ACL last year. They both have great effort and a desire to get better.
“We are just going to be inexperienced at the guard position. The last several years we have good experience at guard play and inexperience in the post. This year is going to be the opposite.”
With that in mind, look for the Cougars to be much less productive on the offensive end.
“We led the region is scoring three of the last four years,” Fletchall said. “This team will not do that. We just don’t have the fire power.
“We have several guys, who on any given night, have the fire power, but we won’t be up and down the floor like we have the past few years. We are going to have to be much more consistent on the defensive end.”
In addition to the Classic this weekend, Barton will host its traditional Thanksgiving Classic. The conference season will start on Dec. 2 at Pratt with three conference games slated before the Christmas Break.