WASHINGTON, D.C.- The 2012-13 Gallaudet University men's basketball season is here and the Bison look to build on back-to-back North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) tournament appearances in what will be a transition year for the team.
The Bison graduated several senior starters from last year and are led by new head coach Brendan Stern who takes over for the departing Jeb Barber.
Stern, who spent three years on Barber's staff and was head coach of Gallaudet's women's team last season, sees potential in this group.
"It will be tough to replace the smarts, athleticism, and talent of our seniors last year, but in the middle of difficulty lies opportunity," said Stern.
"We have a solid core of tough-nosed, hard-working players who are committed to meeting our season goals."
Part of the core to which Stern refers to is returning senior guard, Layton Seeber (Champaign, Ill.), earned another year of eligibility. Seeber led the Bison in minutes last season and averaged 12.1 points per game, good for the third highest average on the team. The guard is also a defensive stalwart for the Bison as he led the team with 27 blocks and was second with 37 steals.
Senior guard Jocus Houston (Baton Rouge, La.), along with Seeber, will provide the young team with veteran leadership, also looks to build on a strong 2011-12 campaign. Houston, the team's 2010-11 Most Improved Player, started 19 games for the Bison last season and averaged 6.1 points per game to go along with 29 assists and 28 steals.
Guard Chris Carson (Atlanta, Ga.) returns for his sophomore season and looks to build on last year's effort in which he saw action in four games and accumulated two steals, five points and averaged 1.3 points per game. Newcomers Kristofer Saucedo (Chicago, Ill.) and Jordan Ramser (Louisville, Ky.) join the team in their junior and sophomore years, respectively, and provide the Bison with additional depth in the backcourt.
The Bison will be led up front by 6-7 junior forward Orion Palmer (Riverside, Calif.) and 6-6 senior center Danny Kelly (Strongsville, Ohio). Palmer, who was a member of the 2011 USA Deaf Men's Basketball roster, will be making his Bison debut this season while Kelly returns to the team after having his 2011-12 season cut short. Kelly posted solid numbers in a strong first half effort last season and will provide a much needed presence in the paint when he returns to the lineup this season. The center was second on the team with 15 points per game and led the team with 8.8 rebounds per game.
Also returning to the front court this season will be junior forward Tyler Crace (Westfield, Ind.) and sophomore forwards Jaris Alleyne (Waldorf, Md.) and Ben Coleman (St. Paris, Ohio). Crace appeared in 24 games last season (started five) as he amassed 64 rebounds, nine steals, eight assists and averaged 4.9 points per game. He also added 23 three-point field goals, good for third place on the team. Alleyne appeared in 18 games last season and hauled in 50 rebounds and 14 steals while contributing 5.2 points per game and seven assists offensively for the Bison. Coleman averaged seven minutes per game last season and was fourth on the team in three-point field goal percentage (7-for-21, .333). He was also a perfect 6-for-6 from the free throw line.
The team welcomes three newcomers to its frontcourt. Senior Jeremy Adams (Glenn Dale, Md.), a pitcher on the GU baseball team, makes his Bison basketball debut this season while freshmen twins James Steingieser and Jesse Steingieser (New Market, Md.) join the team as the only true freshmen on the squad this year.
The team plays it's toughest schedule in years as it has several perennial powerhouses lined up this season. The season kicks-off with the inaugural Hoopsville National Invitational Classic hosted by Stevenson University. The tournament will be the largest on-campus tip-off tournament in Division III men's basketball and features several national powerhouses in the eight-team field. Four of the eight participants were nationally ranked or received votes at some point during last season, and three competed in the 2012 NCAA tournament. The Bison take on host Stevenson in their first game on Nov. 17 before returning to the court the following afternoon to take on Franciscan University from Steubenville, Ohio. The team's first home game of the season will be Tuesday, Nov. 20, against Christendom College with tip-off at 8 p.m.
Over Thanksgiving Weekend, the Bison will once again host their annual GU Holiday Tournament at the Field House. The Nov. 23-24 tournament features St. Joseph's College (Brooklyn), Valley Forge Christian College and Salisbury University. The Bison were defeated by Valley Forge Christian in last year's tournament consolation game.
The first NEAC conference game of the season is on the road on Dec. 7 against Penn-St. Berks, who will make a return visit campus on Feb. 16 in the Bison's regular-season finale. Gallaudet will host former Capital Athletic Conference foes University of Mary Washington and Catholic University of America on Dec. 4 and 15, respectively, before the holiday break. The Bison will participate in the Louis Fleming Basinger Tournament hosted by Lycoming College prior to the New Year on Dec. 29-30 before diving into conference play the rest of way with the exception of a non-conference game against national powerhouse St. Mary's College (Md.).
GU kicks off the new year at home with three homes games against Cazenovia (Jan. 5), SUNYIT (Jan. 6) and Lancaster Bible (Jan. 9) before hitting the road for four NEAC games. The Bison return home for the aforementioned showdown with St. Mary's on Jan. 23 before another road conference game against Penn St.-Abington. Gallaudet closes out the regular-season with four NEAC home games against defending champion Morrisville St. (Feb. 2), Penn St.-Harrisburg (Feb. 6), Penn St.-Abington (Feb. 10) and Penn St.-Berks (Feb. 16). The first round of the NEAC tournament takes place on Feb. 19 with the winners advancing to the weekend tournament (Feb. 23-24).
A FAMILIAR STORY
While the team will be turning the page and beginning a new era in Bison basketball this season, they will have a familiar author at the helm of this new chapter. Coach Stern takes over as head coach after three seasons as an assistant with the men's basketball team from 2008-11. The Bison accumulated a 33-47 overall record and a 14-36 record in conference games during those seasons, including GU's best NEAC season in 2010-11 with a conference mark of 12-6 and a NEAC tournament semifinal appearance. He was also a three-year starter and captain for the Bison during his undergraduate years and played for Team USA in the Deaflympics after graduation.
Stern now takes over a team that went 11-13 overall last season, with a NEAC mark of 8-6, good for third place in the conference's South Division. His vast experience, particularly learning under Coach Barber, has him well prepared for the challenge.
"I worked under Coach Barber for several years, and the experience was invaluable.
Stern knows that while his returning seniors provide the Bison with a solid core, he will need some of the new faces to step up this season for the team to contend for another NEAC tournament berth.
If Stern is to author another successful story in Bison basketball history, separating the wheat from the chaff will be an important first chapter.