BANNER ELK, N.C. - In head coach Scott Polsgrove's third year at Lees-McRae, the Bobcats expect to move up the Conference Carolinas ladder with the return of nine sophomores and a junior in the 2008-2009 men's basketball season.
"We are excited about this year and really looking forward to the challenge," Polsgrove said. "Hopefully, as a group, we will be up for it."
The team has a tough schedule against some of the most competitive teams in the region and in the conference. The Bobcats' season starts with the Disney's DII East Coast Classic Tip-off were they will be up against some of the best teams in the nation including a game against Florida Southern who was ranked #2 in the nation in the Div II Bulletin preseason poll.
"We have a very competitive schedule starting with the DII Tip-off Tournament so we will find out quickly whether we will be able to compete with the best teams in the conference, region and nation," Polsgrove said.
"The improvement we make this year is going to depend heavily on our returners," Polsgrove said. "Our new guys will have to fill holes, but we will rely on our sophomore class."
The Bobcats' sophomore class contains the returning leading scorer for the Bobcat offense a season ago, Nick DeSchepper (Fishers, Ind.), who had 310 points in 732 minutes. He played in all 27 games and started in 26 of those. He averaged 11.5 points per game and shot 47.5 percent from the field. Aaron Woodacre (Piney Flats., Tenn.) is the second leading scorer returning with 280 points in 632 minutes. Woodacre also played in all 27 games and started 19. He averaged 10.5 points per game and was an 85.7% free throw shooter.
"DeSchepper and Woodacre are coming off of great freshmen performances and summer workouts, but the pair is going to have to find new ways to score for the Bobcats," said Polsgrove
The Bobcats are also thrilled to have Stephen Haymer (Fayetteville, N.C.) return to the hardwood after playing only 12 minutes last season due to an injury. In those 12 minutes, Haymer grabbed seven boards.
The Bobcats also return point guard Jessie Hoots (Yadkinville, N.C.), who led the Bobcats with 69 assists last season, and Aaron Willey (Kingsport, Tenn.) who can do a lot of things for the Bobcats. Willey was a 62.7 percent shooter from the field, grabbed 3.2 rebounds per game and played in all 27 games last year.
"Jessie is a very good athlete and needs to be our guy to run the show," Polsgrove said. "Willey can do a lot of things for us. He can shoot, post up and rebound the ball. He has come back stronger and more prepared to handle the college game this year."
Guard Reshon Benjamin (Valdosta, Ga.), guard/forward Sam Youse (Winston-Salem, N.C.) and forward Dairl Scott (Pfafftown, N.C.) round out the Bobcats' nine returning sophomores. Benjamin and Youse will give quality depth at the two and three positions, while Scott is expected to give the Bobcats a strong defensive and rebounding presence in the post.
Representing the junior and senior classes are junior Josh Kurtz (Oak Ridge, N.C.) and senior transfer Ochigbo Ameh (Lagos, Nigeria), from Newman College in Kansas who will both see action in the post. For the Bobcats last season, Kurtz saw action in 23 games.
"Kurtz has come back in great shape and shown us more than we have seen in the past from him," said Polsgrove. "Ameh is a very good athlete, rebounder, shot blocker and defender."
Freshman Kyle Boardman (Clemmons, N.C.) will compete for minutes at the center position for the Bobcats. Boardman scored 18.6 points per game and had 10.5 rebounds per game for West Forsyth High School a season ago. He was also an All-Conference and All-Northwest North Carolina selection.
"Boardman is our most skilled offensive post player," Polsgrove said. "We have very high hopes for him."
Freshmen Sean Hardin (Camden, Del.) and Anthony Johnson (Duncan, S.C.) round out the Bobcat roster.
Hardin averaged 15 points per game and 12 rebounds per game his senior year at Caeser Rodney High School, and Johnson had 11.8 points per game and 2.8 assists per game his senior year at Byrnes High School where he also received All Area and All Region honors.
"Hardin is long and athletic with great potential, but he needs to get stronger to adapt to the college game," Polsgrove said. "Johnson will compete for minutes at the point guard position for us this year."
The Bobcats feel they can climb the conference ladder despite the conference being strong top to bottom.
"We just have to keep building," Polsgrove said.
Pictured: Coach Scott Polsgrove