Can the Bison basketball team return to Kansas City returning just one starter and a reserve guard who didn't get a single vote for All-Conference last year? Seven talented newcomers say "Yes."
All the Bison of Oklahoma Baptist University have coming back for the 2004-05 season is one starter, a reserve guard who didn't get one All-Conference vote last season and a couple of guys off the bench.
It doesn't sound very good until you realize that the one starter is Leonard Mosley and the reserve guard is Robert Hart.
Hart, who failed to garner even Honorable Mention status in the Sooner Athletic Conference last season, led the SAC in assists last year as OBU's sixth man. He averaged 12.2 points, 5.7 assists and shot 53 percent from the field, standing just 5-10.
Mosley, a 6-6 guard, was a bucket shy of being the team's scoring leader last season, averaging 17 points per game with 628 points to SAC Player of the Year Jamel Coachman's 630.
"That nucleus is not as big in numbers as you'd like to have, but those are two very good players to build around," said Bison coach Doug Tolin. "Robert is a better player than he was last January. The way he played in the national tournament is the player he really is. Leonard is one of those guys that you just don't notice, but he'll tip one in, score a couple baskets in transition and hit a couple of free throws and a few jumpers and pretty soon he's got 18 or 20 points."
Tolin said that he expects opponents to create defensive schemes centered on Hart and Mosley this year, so it's clear that that senior tandem can't be OBU's only ammo.
Bailey Jones and Kyle Griffiths are the only other two returning Bison. Jones averaged 9.2 minutes in every game last season and Griffiths saw more limited action but averaged 3.0 points per game.
"We've got some experience in those two guys," Tolin said. "They saw action in some big games for us last year."
The four returning players are all perimeter weapons and have Sauk Valley Community College transfer Tyler Ryan and freshmen Nick Pope and Evan Grace will be out there with them.
"Tyler can really shoot the ball and he has a real passion for basketball, especially for winning basketball games," said Tolin. "He understands the game.
"I think Nick Pope and Evan Grace are going to be good players, but I think their best basketball is going to be coming later on, like it did for Kyle (Tolin) and Adam (Hawkins)," the coach said. "But they will play this year."
Newcomers Kyle Green, Ryan Hurley, Kyle Welborn and Seaon Holcombe will all be working for playing time off the bench.
"We're glad we have all the players we have," Tolin said. "The challenge for them and for us as a coaching staff will be finding them all playing time."
Another challenge that lies ahead is figuring out who plays what role in the front court. Last year's problems of having just two big bodies seems to be firmly in the past as the Bison have five big men to choose from this year.
Boston College transfer Andrew Bryant, New Mexico transfer Justin Benson and his brother, Frank, who transferred from Navarro Junior College, join Frank Benson out of San Jacinto Junior College and San Antonio freshman Jason Grohman in the front court.
Bryant, who guarded Carmello Anthony two seasons ago, "is a really talented player who can play inside as well as shoot. We'll really need him to be more of a post player than a perimeter threat," Tolin said.
Fraser could make a big impact.
"Mike has a chance to be a really good player," said Tolin. "He listens, he works hard and he wants to win. He comes from San Jacinto, which had so many good players, that some of their players don't realize just how good they are. Every player we've had from there comes in thinking they are supposed to win."
The Benson brothers bring size and scoring to the table.
"Frank really ought to be a football player and he ought to be an offensive football player," Tolin said. "His defense isn't bad, but he really comes to life on offense and he can score from anywhere. He can take big men outside and he can drive past guys his size."
Younger brother Justin, is taller.
"Justin is a big strong player and he's a good kid," Tolin said. "He's got a chance to be really successful here and in this league."
Grohman will give OBU some depth and will likely start off as a reserve as he hones his skills to fit the college game, but Tolin said he believed Grohman could see enough game action to be mutually beneficial this first season.
Expectations for the team run high, almost as a tradition, since the team under Tolin has reached no less than the quarterfinal round of the NAIA Tournament in each of his four years.