2012-13 Men's Basketball
Beavers excited about initial campaign in the Sommer Center
October 24, 2012
BLUFFTON, Ohio - With Founders Hall in the rearview mirror, the Bluffton University men's basketball team is excited to make its mark in the newly-minted Sommer Center. Fresh off their second consecutive Heartland Conference tournament berth, the change of scenery has Bluffton athletes and fans excited for the start of the 2012-13 campaign. The Beavers won 10 of their last 16 games including an 83-65 demolition of HCAC regular-season champion Transylvania in their Founders Hall finale. Bluffton secured its seventh winning season in the last eight years thanks largely to a 2011-12 senior class that earned 31 victories over the last two years.
While the Beavers will take a big hit on paper, the returning core of juniors and seniors are ready to carry the mantle for a program that has a history of exceeding conference expectations. Four of the top eight scorers return for a team that lost just five of its last 13 games by a grand total of nine points. The returners are coming off an outstanding spring and summer in which the torch was passed. As is typically the case for Coach Neal's teams, the 2012-13 squad has become a singular unit that is focused on continuing the recent tradition of success on the hardcourt. The juniors and seniors have welcomed the torch, taking over important leadership roles in a seamless transition.
Leading scorer Josh Fisher (Rockford/Parkway) is back for his final season in a Bluffton uniform. The two-time All-Heartland Conference performer does it at both ends of the floor, regularly stifling the opposition's top offensive threat. He hit 31-for-88 from distance (35.2 percent) and was outstanding at the line in knocking down 56-of-70 attempts for 80.0 percent. Fisher bucketed 12.0 points per game and he has the ability to hit from deep or slash through the paint. Pass first point guard Tyler Neal (Bluffton) doled out 26 assists in just over eight minutes a game as a junior. His leadership has been integral to Bluffton's steady improvement the last two seasons. Fellow senior Matt Gerdeman (Delphos/Jefferson), who has been slowed by injuries, gives the Beavers depth in the post.
Ready to make Bluffton's post one of the finest in the conference are juniors Will Pope (Camden/Preble Shawnee) and Dustin Kinn (Alvada/New Riegel). With two years of experience already under their belts, Pope and Kinn are an imposing duo on the blocks. Kinn dropped in 8.5 PPG on 56 percent shooting from the field, while Pope chipped in with 7.8 PPG and 4.9 RPG. Also looking to find time in the post are juniors Jon Fowler (Cincinnati/St. Xavier) and Dillon Long (Rockford/Parkway) who have the height (6-8 and 6-6) and athleticism to cause problems on both ends of the floor.
Junior wing Josh Johnson (Ottawa-Glandorf) began his career as a three-point specialist, but he added a mid-range game to his repertoire last season. His continued development will allow Bluffton's big men to avoid double teams as he is a legitimate scoring threat who must be accounted for. Blade Tackett (Bucyrus/Wynford) and Matt Weisenborn (Tontogany/Otsego) have played an important role the last two years while seeing court time primarily in junior varsity contests. They add to Bluffton's experience out front and their leadership is valuable as the Beavers transition into the 2012-13 season.
Ryan Ebbeskotte (Delphos/Jefferson), who moved into Coach Neal's rotation late last season, highlights a class of six sophomores. He is a versatile guard who can handle the ball or play off of it, giving Bluffton options this year. The Beavers will also welcome a solid class of 12 freshmen when Bluffton makes its debut in the Sommer Center.
It may be easy to underestimate Bluffton heading into the 2012-13 season with three of the top four scorers from a year ago gone, but that would be a mistake that the Beavers are ready to capitalize on. As this year's juniors and seniors take over crucial leadership roles it is apparent that they look forward to cementing Bluffton's winning tradition. Back-to-back trips to the conference tournament has only served to fuel the fire as the Beavers work to improve following first round exits the past two seasons.
A Heartland Conference that has established itself as one of the premier leagues in the Midwest and Great Lakes region continues to improve each year. Sending two teams to the NCAA Tournament has become a regular occurrence and the possibility of that is realistic again heading into the 2012-13 season. Regular-season champion Transylvania and tournament winner Rose-Hulman return the bulk of their respective teams and they should be the favorites. A balanced conference from top to bottom is again the story for the HCAC following a year in which seven teams won between eight and 12 conference games.
While the Founders Hall faithful must acclimate itself to the Sommer Center, the 2012-13 men's basketball team eagerly awaits its chance to continue Bluffton's winning tradition regardless of where it calls home. An off-season that has Coach Neal excited to see his team on the court in November is nearly over and the fun is about to start as the Beavers prepare to treat their fans to a new chapter of Bluffton basketball.