Bluffton seniors set sights high for final campaign in Founders Hall
November 2, 2011
HCAC Pre-season Coaches Poll
After working themselves back into the thick of the HCAC race in 2010-11, the Beavers
look to be a major 'player' in conference competition again this season with an eye
on coming closer to the HCAC championship. Bluffton looks to add to its streak of
six winning seasons in the past seven years as the Beavers prepare for what is likely
their last full campaign in Founders Hall. With the HFEC project in full swing, Bluffton
should make the move to its new Health and Fitness Complex for most or all of the
2012-13 season. A senior class that has been a significant contributor for the past
three years would like nothing better than to walk out of Founders Hall with a Heartland
Conference championship in 2011-12.
Although team captain Rob Luderman and Cam Saylor played their final collegiate basketball
for the Beavers in 2010-11, five seniors are ready to pick up where they left off
last season when they posted 13 more wins than they had as sophomores. The top seven
scorers return from a squad that knocked off HCAC champion Manchester en route to
a berth in the six-team Heartland Conference tournament. With a balance of inside-outside
scoring and a tenacious defense, Bluffton has the makings of a team that will cause
matchup problems on both ends of the floor. The Beavers can light it up from deep
or throw it down to one of three outstanding finishers in the post.
Bluffton's top threat from beyond the arc is also the engine that drives the Beavers.
Senior Mychal Hill (London/Jonathan Alder), a two-time All-Heartland Conference performer, runs the
show for Bluffton, handing out dimes and dialing long distance. He led the Beavers
with 14.2 PPG, while hitting over 85 percent at the line and 42 percent on triples.
Nick Lee (Vanlue) gives Bluffton another experienced senior guard who knows what to do with
the ball at crunch time. Lee connected on 43-of-101 from deep and he dished out 40
assists in his second season as a starter. Providing the Beavers with both size and
quickness on the perimeter, 6-4 wing Nate Heckelman (Norwalk) handles the ball like a point guard and rebounds like a power forward.
One of Bluffton's athletic finishers around the basket, senior Brent Farley (Lima/Shawnee) pulled down a team-high 7.5 rebounds per game and blocked 34 shots
last season. He finished third on the team with 50 assists and fourth with 8.9 points
per game. Steve Swick (Elida) was hampered by an injury for much of the 2010-11 campaign, but he will be
counted on to provide leadership and depth for the Beavers this season.
Bluffton's second All-HCAC performer from a season ago, Josh Fisher (Rockford/Parkway) dropped in 9.7 points per game while picking up a team-best 28
steals as a sophomore. He can shoot from deep and slash to the hoop, making it difficult
for opposing defenses to slow him down. Junior Tyler Neal (Bluffton) gave the Beavers solid minutes off the bench, running the offense while
allowing Hill to recharge. Neal is a quiet leader with a knack for finding the open
man. Matt Gerdeman (Delphos/Jefferson), who missed most of his sophomore season with an injury, will
be counted on to give the Beavers another option in the post.
A pair of 2010-11 freshman post players gave the Beavers a formidable inside game
to complement Hill and Lee's shooting from outside the arc. Will Pope (Camden/Preble Shawnee) opened the season with a pair of double-doubles while fellow
banger Dustin Kinn (Alvada/New Riegel) provided a physical presence at both ends of the court. Pope
put up 10.0 PPG and 6.1 RPG in less than 19 minutes of playing time each night. Kinn
made his shots count, knocking down a team-high 62 percent of his attempts and dropping
in just under seven points per contest. Jon Fowler (Cincinnati/St. Xavier), a 6-8 sophomore, has the size and athleticism to join Bluffton's
rotation down low. Dillon Long (Rockford/Parkway) is a sophomore post player who could work his way into the picture
if he continues to progress.
Seeing more and more playing time as the season progressed, 2011-12 sophomore Josh Johnson (Ottawa-Glandorf) gave the Beavers another legitimate threat from three-ball land.
Johnson was 19-of-54 on triples and he also converted nearly 80 percent of his foul
shots. Although fellow sophomores Blade Tackett (Bucyrus/Wynford) and Matt Weisenborn (Tontogany/Otsego) saw limited varsity action for the Beavers a season ago, they
are ready to push for more playing time on the perimeter this year.
Making the Heartland Conference tournament is a goal on the Beavers' list every season
and 2011-12 is no different. The expectations do not end there, however, as Bluffton
brings back over 90 percent of its scoring and rebounding from last season. The Bluffton
returners have combined for nearly 200 career starts, making this year's team one
of the most experienced ever. The HCAC looks to be extremely balanced once again with
2010-11 champion Manchester suffering the biggest losses due to graduation. Hanover
and Rose-Hulman both return the bulk of their production from last year while Transylvania
will likely find itself in the mix.
Expectations are extremely high after the Beavers posted a +13 win total a season
ago. Just two years removed from a 2-23 campaign, Bluffton is once again ready to
have a say in how the top of the Heartland Conference standings play out. The Beavers
have worked hard in the off-season and with the excitement generated by the new Health
and Fitness Complex, 2011-12 promises to make for a memorable send off to Founders