The six seniors on last season’s Missouri Southern men’s basketball team accounted for 58% of the Lions’ scoring, led by four-year standouts Kinzer Lambert, Elyjah Clark, Braelon Walker and Parker Jennings.
But the Lions do return 6-foot-9 All-American Cam Martin and his 24.1 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. He broke the Lions’ school record with 54 points in an 89-85 loss at Missouri Western last Feb. 22. The 54 points tied for the second-most in MIAA history behind Lincoln sharpshooter Harold Robertson’s 59 points.
“The offensive side of it is going to be probably a lot of the same,” coach Jeff Boschee said. “He’s worked a lot on his perimeter game, taking people off the drive from the perimeter. He’s done that in the past, and he’s worked on his ballhandling quite a bit in the summer. He’s been working on his speed and agility with our trainer this summer.”
The Lions are looking for more contributions from Martin on defense.
“Defensively I think he needs to take a little bit more pride in every possession ... pick-and-roll defense, being able to guard on switches, ball screens a lot better,” Boschee said. “I know it’s hard because he plays so much and we’re asking so much of him. If we’re going to be successful, he has to buy in on the defensive side of it, make sure he’s really good there.”
The Lions, ranked No. 21 in the NABC Division II preseason poll, also return sophomore guard Winston Dessesow. He averaged 6.6 points in 20 games last season but played his best late in the year, capped by games of 16 points against Rogers State in the MIAA Tournament semifinals and 23 points in the championship game, a two-point loss to No. 1 Northwest Missouri.
Others back from last year are forward Christian Bundy and guards Stan Scott and Kyle Younge. Guards Martin Macenis and Tyriqe Jackson used redshirt seasons last year.
The Lions have added two Division I transfers — 6-8 junior forward-center Yagizhan Selcuk from Montana and 6-5 forward RJ Smith from Sam Houston State.
“I think RJ and Yagi will give us some good talent on the perimeter and inside,” Boschee said. “Kyle Younge, who didn’t play much the past year because of people in front of him, has really improved. He’s actually just coming off a quarantine himself.”
The Lions have four freshmen — guards Avery Taggart and Keryn Collins and forwards Lawson Jenkins and Jalen Parker.
“We’ll do most of the same stuff, look to get out in transition,” Boschee said. “As far a style of play, we’ll have to adjust it with what we have for personnel, too. If we don’t have some of our main guys for a couple of games, we may have to adjust the way we play.”
While Boschee is quarantined at home, all 13 players are expected to be available for tonight’s 7:30 season opener at Central Oklahoma. That’s been rare this preseason.
“We haven’t really had a full team ... I don’t know if we’ve had a full-team practice the whole preseason honestly,” Boschee said. “Winston was out for about a month and a half with a sprained MCL injury, and then he gets quarantined. It’s been frustrating.”
And this is the season the Lions needed a productive preseason.
“That’s the frustrating part,” Boschee said. “The fact of not being able to get a consistent schedule, not being able to start for a month when school started, not being able to touch a ball for about a month and a half with the group. I feel really unorganized honestly.
“But we have to make do with what we have. We can’t feel sorry for ourselves because there are a lot of other teams in this position.”
MSSU vs.Central Oklahoma
MISSOURI SOUTHERN (0-0)
F Christian Bundy, 6-5 jr.
F RJ Smith, 6-5 sr.
C Cam Martin, 6-9 sr.
G Winston Dessesow, 6-0 so.
G Kyle Younge, 5-10 so.
CENTRAL OKLAHOMA (0-0)
F Isaiah Wade, 6-7 sr.
F DJ Basey, 6-10 so.
F Colt Savage, 6-5 jr.
F Cam Givens, 6-6 jr.
G Justin Nimmer, 6-6 so.
Tipoff: 7:30 p.m.
Site: Hamilton Fieldhouse, Edmond, Okla.
Coaches: Jeff Boschee, 7th year at MSSU (124-61). bob Hoffman, 2nd year at UCO (11-18), career record (618-354).
Series: MSSU leads 11-4 after last season’s 95-59 home victory, the ninth straight victory for the Lions in the series. The Lions are 3-2 on the road against the Bronchos.
Radio: WMBH (1560 AM, 101.3 FM), KSEK (1340 AM, 107.9 FM), KXMS (88.7 FM),