WASHINGTON – The 2013-14 Gallaudet University men's basketball season starts this weekend and the Bison look to improve upon last year as the team heads into year two under coach Brendan Stern.
The Bison graduated four seniors including two All-North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) performers in Danny Kelly and Layton Seeber. Stern understands this challenge and expects the team to work together on the fundamentals to improve collectively.
"We don't expect anybody to fill their shoes individually because, from a statistical standpoint, they are almost impossible to replace," said Stern. "Instead, we are expecting the team, as a whole, to step up and have a great year by doing the little things that win basketball games, starting with taking care of the ball, rebounding and defending."
GU only returns three players from last season's roster but this year's team has a mix of new and familiar names on it.
Gallaudet will look to the leadership of Coach Stern's former teammate junior Anton Jackson (Detroit, Mich.), who returns to the Bison team after an 11-year hiatus. Jackson was the 2002 Capital Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year.
"He was one of my favorite teammates not because of his natural talent, of which he has plenty, but because of his mental toughness and basketball IQ," said Stern. "We look forward to his intelligence and fearlessness rubbing off on his current teammates. We will count on him to be our playmaker."
After not playing last season, sophomore Trey Gordon (Talladega, Ala.) returns to boost the Bison backcourt. Both sophomore Todd Bonheyo (Frederick, Md.) and junior Jaris Alleyne (Waldorf, Md.) look to continue their winning ways after leading the football team to a conference championship. Bonheyo and Alleyne last played on the team during the 2011-12 season when they scored 23 and 94 points, respectively, over the course of the season. The duo along with two other football players will not join the basketball team until the football season is concluded.
The team adds three freshmen to the backcourt this year with Conrad Baer (Fremont, Calif.), Cody Simmons (Kailua-Kona, Hawaii) and Stephen Dean (Sacramento, Calif.). The trio aim to bring depth and skill to the Bison roster.
The Bison look to 6-foot-7 senior Orion Palmer (Riverside, Calif.) to anchor the Bison down low after having a successful 2012-13 season. Palmer, who was a member of the 2011 USA Deaf men's basketball roster, looks to improve off of his first season with Gallaudet. He led the team in rebounds (9.0 per game) last season and ranked third in points (10.8 per game), nearly averaging a double-double. Palmer led the team in blocks with 17 and ranked second in assists with 66.
Also returning to the front count this season are junior forward Ben Coleman (St. Paris, Ohio) and sophomore James Steingieser (New Market, Md.). Coleman appeared in all 25 games for the Bison last season, where he made 11 starts. He ranked third on the team in both three-point field goals and three-point field goal percentage with 32 and .395, respectively. He also added 55 rebounds, 36 assists, 19 steals and averaged 5.5 points per game. Steingieser averaged 16 minutes per game and added 35 rebounds and 33 points off of 14-of-28 shooting, a .500 field goal percentage.
After having last played in the 2011-12 season, sophomore Tyler Snider (Thornville, Ohio) looks to carry his success on the gridiron over to the basketball court. Sophomore Cyron Stokes (Christianburg, Va.) returns to the team after two years off, looking to play a bigger role this year with the Bison.
The team introduces three newcomers to the Bison frontcourt. Freshmen Joshua McGriff (Somerset, N.J.) and Devante Walters (Rockdale, Ga.) look to have an impact as the lone true freshmen bigs. McGriff will tower over most opponent's big men as he checks in at 6-foot-8 and 240 pounds.
Gallaudet will face a tough schedule as it continues to play some of the best teams in the region. Despite losing multiple non-conference games due to a larger NEAC schedule this year, the Bison have schedule three games with former CAC opponents York, Hood and Goucher.
"The NEAC is quickly becoming one of the more respected mid-major conferences in Division III after Morrisville State advanced to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 in the NCAA last year," said Stern.
The season opens on Saturday, Nov. 16, away as the Bison participate in the Cancer Classic held at York (Pa.) College, where they will compete against the host Spartans and either Jersey City or Stevens Tech. The Bison play another game on the road at Hood on Nov. 21 before heading home for their first conference game of the season against Penn St.-Berks on Nov. 25. GU then travels to Penn St.-Abington on Dec. 4 before hosting its annual holiday tournament during the first week of December (Dec. 6-7). This year, the teams participating in the GU Holiday Tournament are Maryland Bible, Lynchburg and Valley Forge. The team then has another away game at Goucher on Dec. 15 before starting a five-game home stretch, including four conference games, after New Year's Day.
GU begins January with a game against its last non-conference opponent Swarthmore on Jan. 5 before 17 straight NEAC contests. The Bison continue their home stretch with Keuka (Jan. 11), Wells (Jan. 12), Cazenovia (Jan. 18) and defending NEAC champions Morrisville St. (Jan. 18) before hitting the road for two more conference games. Gallaudet returns home to host NEAC foe Lancaster Bible on Jan. 28 before starting its four-game away trip to begin February. GU then hosts two home games against SUNY Cobleskill (Feb. 8) and SUNYIT (Feb. 9) before playing at Lancaster Bible (Feb. 12).
The Bison host their final home game of the year against Penn St.-Abington on Feb. 15 before ending the season with away games at Morrisville St. (Feb. 21) and Cazenovia (Feb. 22). The first round of the NEAC tournament takes place Feb. 25 with the winners advancing to the semifinals (March 1-2).
Despite being in his second year as head coach of the team, Stern has plenty of experience in the basketball program. He was previously an assistant with the men's basketball team from 2008-11 where the Bison totaled a 33-47 overall record and a 14-36 conference record, including GU's best season in 2010-11 when the team went 12-6 in the conference and made a semifinal appearance in the NEAC tournament. Stern was also a three-year starter and captain for the Bison while he attended Gallaudet University. After graduation he was a member of Team USA in the Deaflympics.
In Stern's first year at the helm of the men's basketball program last season he led the team to a 10-15 overall record, 6-8 in the NEAC, where they finished fourth in the NEAC South Division. The year prior, Stern coached the GU women's basketball team to an 8-16 overall record, 6-12 NEAC mark.
Stern knows that the Bison will have to rely heavily on new faces and old familiar ones in order to be successful this year.
"The team has been extremely positive with each other and about our potential to make noise this year if we play disciplined, aggressive and unselfish basketball. We want our players to invest everything they've got into each other, the program philosophy and winning together," said Stern.