WASHINGTON - The Gallaudet University men's basketball team enters a new season under second-year head coach Kevin Kovacs and is ready to take the next step after a successful 2015-16 season. The Bison enter the new season after going 18-8 overall and 14-4 in North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) play where they reached the conference semifinals.
"Last year, I not only learned about the program and the individuals on the team, but I also figured out the best ways to practice and which plays most effectively utilized our strengths," said Kovacs. "The student-athletes are always changing so I'm constantly looking for ways to modify and build our program to adapt and accommodate the athletes."
Kovacs' coaching philosophy emphasizes the importance of individuals setting and achieving personal goals for the team to achieve a high level of success.
"In order for this team to play at a high caliber, we need to set goals everyday both on and off the court. If everyone is doing their best to achieve their personal goals than the team will have the opportunity to succeed," said Kovacs.
Although the Bison lost one of their best all-time shooters in Trey Gordon, they will have a nice blend of talent from the new recruits and experience from the veterans that could potentially take them a long way. However, Coach Kovacs knows that the team will need to improve if they want to succeed.
"If we want to go far as a team, we need to identify our weaknesses and work everyday to get better. Experience and talent will only get you so far," added Kovacs.
GU's veterans, the core four, got stronger over the summer as members of Team USA as they helped the red, white and blue win gold at the 2016 Pan American Deaf Basketball Tournament last July in Frederick, Md.
Here is a breakdown of the 2016-17 Gallaudet men's basketball team.
NEAC Record: 14-4
Highlight: Team tied the program record for wins (18), conference wins (14) and advanced to NEAC semifinals
Awards: Three All-NEAC honors (two on first team), two CoSIDA Academic All-America honorees, Gordon named to D3Hoops.com All-Region third team
Joshua McGriff (Somerset, N.J.), Sr., 6-8, Center
McGriff's performance during the 2015-16 season earned him a spot on the All-NEAC First Team. After representing the United States over the summer as a member of the USA Deaf men's basketball team, McGriff returns to the floor as a co-captain for the Bison and as the strongest and biggest player on the team. He is expected to be double or triple teamed throughout the season, leaving other players open to make plays for the Bison.
Raymond Nelson (Riverside, Calif.), Sr., 6-3, Guard
Nelson was selected to the All-NEAC Third Team last season. He joined Harrington, Cruz and McGriff on the USA Deaf men's basketball team over the summer and is expected to be a leader for the Bison this season. Nelson, a co-captain, is an offensive threat for Gallaudet. He continues to work on the defensive end of the ball and will be a key player for the Bison.
Andy Cruz (Bronx, N.Y.), Jr., 6-5, Forward
Cruz returns to court for the Bison after representing the United States on the USA Deaf men's basketball team in the Pan American Basketball Tournament. He is expected to take on a larger role this year for the team.
Shawn Harrington (Frederick, Md.), Sr., 6-6, Center
Harrington was also a member of the USA Deaf men's basketball team at the Pan American Basketball Tournament over the summer and returns to Gallaudet for his senior season as the sixth man for the Bison. Harrington will make a direct impact off the bench, keeping the pressure on the opposing teams and giving Gallaudet's starters the opportunity to rest.
The Bison will have large shoes to fill following Gordon's graduation. The two-time All-NEAC first team, and two-time All-East Region third team guard/forward led the 2015-16 Bison to an 18-8 record averaging a team-high 17.8 points per game. He finished the 2015-16 season among the top 3-point shooters in Division III, tied for 14th place, and ended his career in 15th place on the all-time school points leaderboard with 1,211.
Bonheyo, like Gordon, was another influential leader both on and off the court for the Bison in the 2015-16 season. The guard from Frederick, Md., averaged 32.5 minutes per game and 8.4 points per game.
Noah Valencia (Riverside, Calif.), Fr., 6-1, Guard
Following the departure of Gordon, Valencia's shooting ability will make him a valuable asset for the Bison. As teams look to shutdown McGriff, look for Valencia to take advantage of the open perimeter. His shooting ability will make him a threat from anywhere on the court.
Trace Martin (Shingle Springs, Calif.), So., 6-0, Guard
Martin transfers to Gallaudet after playing basketball for California State University, Northridge (CSUN). The team will also count on him to fill the open shooter role. He is a highly competitive individual who is willing to do whatever it takes to win.
Derek Keels (San Diego, Calif.), Jr., 6-4, Guard/Forward
Keels brings an unselfish style of play and a high basketball IQ to the team. He plays with his head up and has the potential to be a leader on the team as an upperclassman.
Connor Henze (Elk Point, S.D.), Fr., 6-7, Center
Henze has demonstrated throughout the preseason that he has potential top be one of the top players for the Bison. Fundamentally, he is a talented player who is always hungry for minutes on the floor.
Dakota Shear (Hereford, Ariz.), Fr., 5-7, Guard
Shear brings a sense of fearlessness to the team. He is a mature player whose commitment to his team and his teammates runs deep.
"We have a great mix of veterans and young players which gives us the opportunity to do great things this year. This should be a very exciting and competitive season for us and I'm excited to see who will step up to the challenge." Kevin Kovacs, Gallaudet University men's basketball head coach
- Season Opener: vs. Bridgewater (Va.) in Harrisonburg, Va. (Nov. 18)
- Home Opener/Food Drive: vs. St. Mary's (Md.) (Nov. 22)
- Conference Opener: at Bryn Athyn (Nov. 29)
- 2015-16 NEAC Champs: vs. Lancaster Bible (Feb. 4)
- Senior Day: vs. Keuka (Feb. 12)
GU's season opens this weekend in Harrisonburg, Va. with two non-conference games at the EMU
The Bison begin the regular season in Harrisonburg, Va., to face Bridgewater (Va.) College on Nov. 18 and Eastern Mennonite University on Nov. 19.
Gallaudet's first home game will be against St. Mary's (Md.) College on Nov. 22 at 6 p.m. in the Field House. The Bison will then begin conference play on the road against Bryn Athyn (Nov. 29), 2015-16 NEAC champion Lancaster Bible (Dec. 2) and Penn St.- Berks (Dec. 3) before wrapping up the fall semester with three straight home games against Bryn Athyn (Dec. 7), Goucher (Dec. 9) and Gwynedd Mercy (Dec. 17).
The Bison will play 10 conference games in the month of January and open up with three straight at home against Penn College, St. Elizabeth and Penn St-Abington before hitting the road to finish regular season competition with St. Elizabeth (Jan. 14) and Penn College (Jan. 15) in a weekend doubleheader. Gallaudet will finish another three-game homestand against Wilson on Jan. 24 and finish the month of January with competition against 2015-16 NEAC runner-up Morrisville State in New York.
Gallaudet will play four home games in February before closing out the regular season on the road against Wilson College. The last home game on Sunday, Feb. 12, against Keuka College at 2 p.m. will honor the men's basketball seniors. The Bison close out the regular-season slate with an away game at Wilson on Feb. 18.
The NEAC Tournament begins the following week and runs from Feb. 21-26.
BISON HOME GAMES
Nov. 22 vs. St. Mary's (Md.), 6 p.m.
Dec. 7 vs. Bryn Athyn, 7 p.m.
Dec. 9 vs. Goucher, 6 p.m.
Dec. 17 vs. Gwynedd Mercy, 2 p.m.
Jan. 7 vs. Penn College, 4 p.m.
Jan. 8 vs. St. Elizabeth, 2 p.m.
Jan. 12 vs. Penn St.-Abington, 7 p.m.
Jan. 21 vs. SUNY Poly, 4 p.m.
Jan. 22 vs. SUNY Cobleskill, 2 p.m.
Jan 24 vs. Wilson, 7 p.m.
Feb. 4 vs. Lancaster Bible, 2 p.m.
Feb. 5 vs. Penn St.-Berks, 2 p.m.
Sat. 11 vs. Wells, 2 p.m.
Sun 12 vs. Keuka, 2 p.m.