2008-09 Ohio Bobcats Preview: #129
Overall Rank: #129
Conference Rank: #5 MAC
2007-08: 20-13, 9-7, 3rd East
2007-08 postseason: CBI
No matter what the reasons, it is not good when your coach leaves in late June to go to Bryant University. Former coach Tim O’Shea’s time at Ohio was limited and likely to end after this season anyway, so in the long run it is not a bad thing. In fact, since the Bobcats made a great hire in former Ohio State assistant John Groce, Ohio’s expectations are rising right away.
Yet, there will need to be a little rebuilding this year. Three of the top four scorers are gone, including forward Leon Williams who averaged 16.4 points and 9.8 rebounds during his senior campaign. Bubba Walther added 12.3 points and 3.7 assists per contest and fellow guard Bert Whittington was the other long range threat besides Walther. Guard Allen Hester earned a handful of starts and occasionally played an important role off the bench. Walk-on guard Andrew Vroman only saw action in six games his final year with the Bobcats.
Besides the loss of Williams, it is not as bad as it looks. Walther’s production is replaceable and Whittington fits squarely in the ‘addition by subtraction’ category. Stacy Waters will carry some of the burden on the perimeter. The shooting guard can consistently knock down the three-pointer and that is what Ohio needs the most this year. In a backcourt that returns very few experienced players, Waters could be starting from day one and point guard Frankie Dobbs and shooting guard Steven Coleman will be given the opportunity to see quality minutes. Mike Harris was Iona’s second leading scorer as a freshman two years ago before transferring to Athens. Harris’ ability to hit the long ball, and his experience, will make him a valuable asset, either in the starting lineup or off the bench. Big men Maurice Pearson and Zach Nagtzaam both redshirted last year. The frontcourt certainly has a lack of depth, so the more minutes those two can eat up as freshmen, the better.
Who to Watch:
Jerome Tillman ranked second on the team last year in points, rebounds and blocks. The 6-6 power forward had a great year next to Williams, who ranked first in all those categories, but what will happen now that Williams is gone? Will Tillman emerge as a big threat under the basket or will he struggle as the opposing defense keys in on him? The problem is there is nobody ready to take over the center spot. Kenneth van Kempen has some experience, but he will not do anything close to what Williams did over his four year career. The small forward spot returns Justin Orr. Orr is a decent slasher and can occasionally hit the outside shot. Tillman and Orr will have to carry the team for a while and if they cannot find a center to clog the lane, the frontcourt will struggle.
The backcourt does have some players returning. Point guard Michael Allen had a decent year after spending a couple seasons at Cloud Community College and Daytona Beach Community College. He is not much of a scorer, but Allen did dish out four assists per contest. As long as he can keep the turnovers down, the backcourt will have a steadying force leading the way. Tommy Freeman will likely find more playing time this year after averaging under ten minutes per game as a freshman. At 6-5, Freeman has the size to give the team a much needed rebounder on the wing.
Projected Post-season Tournament: none
Projected Starting Five:
Michael Allen, Senior, Guard, 4.8 points per game
Mike Harris, Sophomore, Guard, DNP last season
Justin Orr, Senior, Forward, 6.8 points per game
Jerome Tillman, Senior, Forward, 13.3 points per game
Kenneth van Kempen, Junior, Center, 2.3 points per game