Builders picked first in coach poll

Southwestern College men’s basketball head coach Matt O’Brien lost the NAIA Player of the Year, but the Builders were picked first in the KCAC coaches poll, second in the media poll.

WICHITA — The 2019-20 Southwestern College men’s basketball team was projected to finish atop the KCAC standings, as voted on by coaches of the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference.

The Moundbuilders were picked second by members of the media.

Southwestern received five first-place votes from the coaches and nine from members of the media. The Oklahoma Wesleyan Eagles, who were projected first from the media, received 14.

Head coach Matt O’Brien took the podium at Crestview Country Club. O’Brien opened his speech expressing his excitement for his squad and the fact that they have a wide variety of highly-skilled players.

Understandably, O’Brien received questions about losing players from last year’s team, which included NAIA Player of the Year Cameron Hunt. O’Brien said nothing will change in mentality and style going forward and that their core principles will stay the same.

“We lost the best player in the country last year, but we also lost two key players in Brent Smith and Simpson Anderson,” O’Brien said. “Nothing is going to change. We are going to continue to play fast and go after every rebound.”

Replacing a 31-points-per-game scorer, along with nearly 15 rebounds a game between Smith and Anderson is going to be tough, O’Brien said, but he is looking forward to seeing what the newcomers are capable of and how they fit into the grand scheme of things.

“We have several transfers who are going to come in and make an impact on the court,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien made note of a few of the incoming new faces, including junior Quintin Wallace, who adds athleticism and size down low, and two dynamic guards in sophomore Justin Criddle and junior Noah Webster.

The team’s top returning scorer is senior Andrew Hamm, who was second on the team in scoring and shot better than 40 percent from behind the arc. Other notable returners include the team’s high-scorer off the bench in senior Jarehn White and starting junior Ahmad Pratt.

Following a second-place regular season and KCAC Tournament championship last season, the Builders enter the season with hope.

O’Brien is thrilled to have many returners in the program, including most of his coaching staff from a year ago, including associate head coach Tim Miser, who will enter his 10th season.

“I am blessed to have someone as loyal as Coach Miser,” O’Brien said. “He is a big reason for the success we have had as a program.”

The Moundbuilders open the 2019-20 season at home Oct. 28 against Ozark Christian.

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