The College of the Ozarks Bobcats enter the 2017-2018 season coming off a 20-10 record last year. Head Coach Steve Shepherd begins his 16th season at the helm of the Bobcats with a squad consisting of a handful of key playmakers from last season and a bevy of newcomers.
Canyon Smith will help lead the Bobcats as their lone senior. In his first three years with the club, Smith played in 84 games, scoring a total of 467 points, grabbing 123 rebounds, and dishing 107 assists. “Canyon is one of the best shooters in NAIA,” said Shepherd, “and we look for him to continue his productivity from the perimeter.”
A talented threesome of juniors also returns to Shepherds’ squad. Forward Ethan Davidson will be a critical component to the Bobcats’ inside game on a team plentiful with guards. He has scored 499 points for the Cats and pulled down 282 boards. Davidson was second on the team last season in points and rebounds with 12.2 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. The Cats will count on Davidson’s leadership at both ends of the floor. Joining Davidson in the post will be Ryan Burland, whose strengths include scoring in the low post and rebounding. Last season he collected 121 rebounds, 85 on the defensive end, and blocked 15 shots. Burland has the added advantage of being a threat from the outside as an accurate 3-point shooter, hitting 34% last season. Heath Carmichael should play a strategic role in the Bobcats’ offense, thanks to his ability to stretch the defense with his shooting. His all-around abilities on the court were demonstrated this past season, as he drained 50 three-pointers, dished 85 assists, posted 109 rebounds, and grabbed 39 steals. Carmichael is a leader by example—he sets the tone in practice and works hard every day to improve.
Sophomore DeMon Hyler is another significant returner for the Cats. Hyler scored 293 points in 30 games last year, capping off a tremendous freshman season. He is a complete player who can pass, shoot, and defend. Hyler is likely to produce some big numbers this season both offensively and defensively. Brandt Cochran returns with a year of experience that will serve him well, as he is a triple-threat player who can make things happen off the dribble.
Six new team members feature two sophomore transfers and four incoming freshmen. Ben Cody, a transfer from Volunteer State CC (Tenn.), has already proven himself as one of the team’s hardest workers. Cody will contribute to the Bobcats’ defense and serve as a positive force in the locker room. Storm Price, who hails from Spokane, joins the Cats from North Arkansas CC and will be an offensive and defensive threat. Price, like Carmichael, has the ability to stretch the defense and make things happen. Republic graduate Treyden Rackley, who was All-State, All-Conference, and All-District for the Tigers, comes from a winning program. He is a tough player who excels in hard work and hustle. Rackley will bring a winning mentality to the team. Nixa grad Seth Viebrock brings a positive attitude to the team. He is expected to be a high-assist player who will create scoring opportunities for his teammates. Deric Jones was a multi-sport athlete at Hartville High School, earning All-Conference and All-District honors three times and being named a two-time All-State basketball honoree. Jones is a State champion and brings an expectation of winning to the team. Calvin Allen is from Bryant High School (Ark.) and brings terrific point guard skills and a high basketball IQ to the court. Allen is anticipated to be an impact player on the floor as a freshman.
Shepherd comes into the new season excited about the team he has assembled. “This is one of our better outside shooting teams,” says Shepherd. “They are scrappy and will create problems for opponents.” Although the Bobcats have an abundance of guards, Shepherd is confident this will work to their advantage. “We’re not going to be real big, but we will make up for that with quickness and execution, alongside being physical.”
With teamwork and unselfishness as two of their strengths, the Bobcats are eager to take the court for another successful season.