Men's B-ball looking strong

by Tuukka Hess

With the NBA locked out, where can a fan watch quality basketball?

Promising an exciting style of basketball, Oberlin's very own men's basketball team may turn Philips gymnasium into the place to go. Entering his second season as head coach, James "Satch" Sullinger returns four of five starters from last year, including top scorers sophomore James Knight averaging 15.96 points per game and captain senior John Norris averaging 14.08 points per game. "Cellar dwelling," Sullinger said "is no longer an expectation of Oberlin men's basketball."

Coming off of a 3-21 season, one could forgive a pessimist for smiling. But not for long. The most important cause of this new attitude is the team's most unmistakable change: new players. This year the Yeomen field a full team of 12 players, a four player addition from the end of last year. Moreover, the new players inject a powerful combination of height, speed and talent to the roster.

Sophomore 6'8" center Brian Buchanan and 6'6" first-year Rick Pierce offer a much-appreciated remedy to Oberlin's most glaring weakness last season. That is, the Yeomen frontcourt can now look the rest of the NCAC eye-to-eye. The already quick backcourt is bolstered by an influx of talent as well. Sophomore Maurice Elrod can enjoy running with his former high school teammate, first-year Alonzo Crowder, and guard senior Rich Santiago returns from a one-year hiatus to provide the team with some more experience. Throw the speed of senior Jason Sokol and the brains of returning junior Jesse Morris into the mix, and Oberlin's bench enjoys a healthy depth it has lacked in recent years.

This depth has important implications to the style of Oberlin basketball. Whereas last season the Yeomen were limited to a half-court game, this season looks to be one of a pressing, passing, up-tempo flash of Yeomen. And with his increased ability to throw many different defensive looks at opposing team, Sullinger hopes to capitalize on his team's intelligence by confusing opposing teams.

As always, team chemistry is imperative. "I'd say the crucial question is whether the players will be able to gel and come together as one unit," guard senior Jason Sokol said. "And so far, going by practice, I'm optimistic that we will."

The team opens its season today in a four team tournament at Capital College. Facing stiff competition, the tournament provides a challenging opening to a promising season. But it is a welcomed challenge. "I'm ready to put everything to use that we've been working on all year, and see where we are," Pierce said.

Santiago agreed. "Coach motivates us well. We just have to go out and play hard. We'll see how we do, and go from there," he said.

After returning from the tournament, the team will host the first home matchup of the season. Sullinger invites students and faculty alike to stand and cheer the team on at 7:30, Saturday Nov. 28.

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Copyright © 1998, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 127, Number 10, November 20, 1998

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