After a strong showing against UT-Tyler at last Thursday’s scrimmage, this year’s men’s basketball team is looking forward to rebuilding off last season’s less than desirable finish. This new squad is very different from last year’s team, if not entirely unrecognizable – only three of the 17 members are returners.
Head coach Jarred Samples believes that the team will reap the benefits of having a squad mostly composed of underclassmen. “We are very excited about this year’s team. Our new guys will bring plenty of enthusiasm and energy because they are thrilled to have the chance to play college basketball. They are a very talented group, and I am excited to see what skills they bring to the table. I expect them to play hard and compete every single night.”
Team captain Drew Assinesi is also very optimistic about this year’s team. “These guys have a lot of energy, and being new to college basketball they are also extremely motivated to perform. We have high expectations for this group, and we expect to be a force in the SCAC.”
The two other returners, who will definitely make some positive waves for the program this year, are Braeton Hightower and Tanner Bruffey. Hightower is an extremely quick 2-guard with a sharp three-point shot, and he is famous for dropping 30 points in his freshman debut. Bruffey is a 6’5’’ small forward who can shoot from anywhere and slash to the hoop with ease. Aside from Assinesi, Bruffey and Hightower, the team will look for solid contributions from Division-II transfer Joe Stephens and a physical post presence from the following freshmen: 6’6” Alex Winebarger, 6’5” Aaron Wyatt, 6’5” Decker Smith, and 6’5” Curtis Gile. Additionally, positive contributions at the guard positions should be expected from freshmen Kym Malone, Joe Stoll and Sean Bambace.
Aside from the new faces of the team, the basketball program itself will be affected by the school’s decision to accept an offer to compete in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC), one of the premier Division III conferences in the country. According to Samples, being a part of the SCAC is “a great opportunity for us to compete for an automatic qualifying bid to this season’s NCAA tournament.” This is an exciting move for the program, since it opens up opportunities for sustained rivalries amongst familiar teams such as Austin College, Southwestern University and Colorado College.
In addition the move provides the Crusaders with a permanent home and a chance to finally establish a name for itself within a conference. Come out to Richardson, Texas on Thursday, Nov. 17, at 7:30 p.m. to watch your Crusaders tip off the season against nationally ranked University of Texas-Dallas, or show some school spirit at the team’s first home game against St. Mary’s (MN) at 8 p.m. this Friday night!