Written by Katie Morford Tuesday, 29 November 2011 16:18
Despite the loss of first-team all-conference and honorable mention All-American player Damon Dechant to graduation, the Tabor College men’s basketball team returns plenty of experience that they hope will bring them success on the court this season.
“I’m really excited about this year,” said Micah Ratzlaff since 2006. His team was 3-6 after its first nine games. “I really like my players. I really liked my players last year. We have a lot of guys back, so we’re excited about Bluejay basketball.”
As the Bluejays begin their conference schedule this week, they return nine letter-winners from last year.
Key among those returners will be junior guard Lawson Kingsley, who received honorable mention in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference last year, and junior forward Ryan Chippeaux, a starter last year and, at 6-foot, 7-inches, is the tallest player on the squad.
Through eight games this season, Lawson is averaging 9.5 points per game while Chippeaux is averaging 12 points and 6.4 rebounds.
Also returning to contribute include senior forwards Dillon Clark-Kaneable (9.7 points and a team-high average of seven rebounds) and Max Frise (2.6 points), and senior guards Kyle Wallace (4.9 points with a team-high 28 assists) and Phillip Jimenez (6.3 points).
Clark-Kaneable underwent knee surgery at the end of last season. But Ratzlaff said he has come back in “extremely good shape” and is a better athlete now.
Ratzlaff said he’s excited about having Wallace back for a full season, since the 6-1 senior joined the team at semester.
Ratzlaff said he will look to fill the big shoes left by Dechant with some transfer players. “I think some of our transfers that we’re bringing in can help with that,” he said. “I think we’ve upgraded at the guard position.”
Ricardo Wells is one of those guard transfers. He is 6-2 and weighs 250 pounds and averaging 11.7 points so far. “He moves pretty well for 250 pounds, so we’re excited about him,” Ratzlaff said.
Senior guard transfer Joe Penn leads the Bluejays in scoring with an average of 12.4 points. He played previously at Brown-Mackie College in Salina.
“Offensively, he’s probably the most impressive guard, skill-wise, that I’ve coached,” Ratzlaff said.
Up front, the Bluejays brought in Antonio Higgins, a 6-4 junior forward from Texas. Higgins is averaging 4.3 points and 3.7 rebounds.
“He’s going to come at you and not stop,” Ratzlaff said. “He’s extremely coachable and works extremely hard, so we feel he’s going to do really good things this year.”
Tabor also has four freshmen who may see the court later this season, including Taylor Redding, a 6-2 guard out of Hesston, JT Nemit, a 5-8 guard from California, Hayden Musgrove, a 6-2 guard out of Oklahoma, and Matt Bird, a 6-2 guard from Quinter.
“(Nemit) is one of those little guards that doesn’t back down from anything,” Ratzlaff said. “We’ve been really impressed with him in practice.”
With such an influx of transfer players and freshmen, the Bluejays have struggled to gel and find an offensive rhythm early in the season. But Ratzlaff expressed confidence that they will find their spark and learn to work together well by the time conference play begins.
“A strength, obviously, is going to be experience for us,” he said. “We will play quite a few guys and I think we’ll have good chemistry going, keep things going in the right direction.”
The Bluejays begin KCAC play Thursday against Southwestern College at Winfield.