Balance leads to Tabor men?s turnaround

A busy recruiting summer has proven to pay off early in the season for Tabor College men?s basketball coach Micah Ratzlaff.

With three all-Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference returners, who are growing into leadership roles in their sophomore seasons, joining with four junior college transfers settling in the system, Tabor enters Christmas break with a 3-1 KCAC record and 8-3 overall.

Ratzlaff inherited a 9-9, 12-18 squad, starting as head coach in 2007-08. He was an assistant for the 2006-07 season.

A Hillsboro High alum who played at Tabor after a stint at Oral Roberts University, Ratzlaff was a 2000-01 and 2002-03 all-conference and all-American honorable mention as a Bluejay as well as a 1998 Topeka Capital-Journal all-state player at HHS.

In his first season as head coach, the Bluejays improved one game from 2006-07, finishing 9-9 and 13-17 and in seventh place in the KCAC.

Tabor improved significantly in 2008-09, finishing fourth in the KCAC at 11-7. The team?s 16-12 record marked the first winning season for the men since 2005-06.

Last season was Ratzlaff?s worst as head coach, with the Bluejays finishing 7-11 in the conference and 10-18 overall.

This season, senior Damon Dechant is averaging a team-high 15 points per game, which ties him for third in the conference with St. Mary?s Jeb Greenberg. Dechant is also pulling down 6.8 rebounds per contest, good enough for third in the KCAC.

The 2009-10 all-KCAC performer is also leading the conference in field goal percentage, hitting 61.5 percent this season.

Adding to his outstanding early-season performance, the senior is also second in the KCAC in blocked shots.

David Chippeaux, a 6-foot-10-inch sophomore, leads the KCAC in steals with 21 and is the Bluejays? third-leading scorer at 7.6 points per game and is third in rebounding at 5.1 a game.

Sophomore Lawson Kingsley is the Bluejays? No. 2 scorer, averaging 40.4 percent from behind the three-point line and 10.3 points per game.

The rest of the scoring has been evenly dispersed, with four players averaging seven per contest and another at 5.8 points.

Averaging 7.1 points a game, the Bluestem High Sc0hool grad and Butler Community College transfer Cody Arnold has struggled with shooting but has improved defensively (13 steals) and is second in assists with 26 this season, or 2.6 per game.

Others hovering around seven points are juco transfers Dylan Clark-Kaneable (7.1) and Max Frise (7.0).

Kaneable is the second leading rebounder for Tabor with 5.5 a contest.

Curtis Dick leads Tabor in three-point percentage, hitting six of 11 for 54.5 percent. He is second in field-goal percentage at 57.1 percent.

Hillsboro High School alum Gavin Serene averages 3.6 points per game.

The Bluejays will return to action New Year?s Eve in the Tabor Classic tournament. The Tabor men open against Graceland University (2-2, 6-6) of Lamoni, Iowa, and a member of the Heart of America Athletic Conference at 8 p.m.

Tabor ends the holiday tournament with a game against Culver-Stockton College of Canton, Mo., on New Year?s Day.

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