College of the Ozarks basketball is back in action and ready to take the court for their 2019-2020 season!
Following a post-season run last year that included second place in the A.I.I. Conference and an NAIA DII National Championship berth, the Bobcats will need to quickly acclimate an influx of new players for this season.
Head Coach Steve Shepherd enters his 18th season at the helm of the Bobcats and is already excited about this team’s use of teamwork and unselfishness. Shepherd will rely heavily on leadership provided by four returning starters from last year’s squad—Brandt Cochran, Storm Price, Treydon Rackley, and Klay Barton.
Brandt Cochran will be the Bobcats’ lone senior playing this year, as Storm Price will be limited to a sideline role due to injury. Following a tremendous junior season, the Bobcats look for this to be Cochran’s best yet. In 2018-19, Brandt contributed 21 points and 4.6 rebounds per game, shooting 50.2% from the field. Beyond the arc, Cochran shot 47.4%, draining an impressive 126 three-pointers. His stat line included 153 assists and 51 steals. For his career, Brandt has already amassed some all-time numbers. Starting the season, Cochran was ranked on the all-time Bobcat leaderboards for career points with 1,139 (22nd), 4th in 3PT percentage (43.7%), and tied for 8th in three-pointers made (204). Cochran has also set some single-game records including a 42-point performance last season and draining 10 three pointers on two separate occasions in his career. Cochran is a true triple threat with the ability to shoot from any location, drive to the basket, and dish out assists. Brandt will provide in-game production along with senior leadership on and off the court.
Junior returners feature Treydon Rackley and Trey Gibson. Rackley has recorded two outstanding seasons and strives to take another step up this year. As a sophomore, he averaged 10.4 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. He shot 49.6%, while netting 46 treys, and recorded 87 assists, 43 steals, and 10 blocks. With the ability to shoot and defend, Rackley will be a key contributor. Gibson joined the team in the latter part of last season, playing in eight games and providing some depth. He has made significant improvement, and Shepherd intends to make good use of his strong defense and his ability to drive the ball to the basket.
Klay Barton, a sophomore, had a strong freshman season for the Bobcats, averaging 7.4 points and 2.4 rebounds per game. He shot 40.9% and tallied 28 three pointers, 89 assists, and 11 steals. Klay has shown flashes of incredible athleticism and can play above the rim. With his rebounding abilities and shooting further developed, Barton will be relied upon for production at both ends.
The freshman class is large, featuring ten newcomers. Slated at forward are Ayden Stone, Trent McBride, and Dylan Massey.
Stone (6’5, Thayer, Mo.) is a high-energy, aggressive player with a nose for the ball. He plays relentless defense, rebounds, and can shoot from all locations. McBride (6’7, Eminence, Mo.) has a knack for being able to score. He is also a good rebounder and defender, who will make an impact in the post. Massey (6’5, Mountain Grove, Mo.) has athleticism, height, and a strong post presence, but a preseason injury will sadly sideline him this season.
At guard, the Bobcats introduce Jake Farnsworth, Riley Oberbeck, Cooper Long, Matt Luebbert, Andrew Mitchell, Skyler Levendosky, and Nathan Burnett.
Farnsworth (5’11, Fordland, Mo.) is a talented point guard with great offensive instinct. He can take it to the basket and is also a great passer. Oberbeck (6’3, Strafford, Mo.) is making good progress coming off an injury. He passes and shoots well, using his length to make athletic plays. Long (6’2, Mountain Home, Ark.) will provide a spark off the bench. He is a talented offensive player with good shooting ability. Luebbert (6’4, Warsaw, Mo.) is an athletic wing player. A scrappy competitor with great hustle, he is expected to excel as he transitions from a high school multi-sport athlete to focusing solely on basketball. Mitchell (6’4, Blue Eye, Mo.) is a terrific shooter with great three-point range. He will be a catalyst on offense and makes good use of his height in pulling down rebounds. Levendosky (6’1, Neosho, Mo.) will contribute in the scoring column, thanks to his strong outside shooting. Burnett (5’10, Risco, Mo.) is a solid point guard with good passing skills, who can also shoot. He brings solid, all-around offensive and defensive skills.
The Bobcats’ strength will continue to be in their guard play, with experienced returners being counted on to carry a significant portion of the load. The team in expected to have a strong offensive presence due to their sound ball-handling, passing, and shooting skills.
The loss of All-American Ethan Davidson and teammate Heath Carmichael, both whom made substantial contributions in all stat categories throughout their careers, will present some challenges. In addition, returning just five players, alongside the influx of ten new freshmen, will likely cause some growing pains. However, Coach Shepherd expects the added bench depth, and talent therein, should provide some remedy.
“We have great teamwork, and our team members are very unselfish,” stated Shepherd. “I am excited about our new freshmen—they are capable of stepping on the court and making a significant impact. We are a work in progress, but we have the opportunity to be a very good team as we gain experience. We are eager to see what we can accomplish.”
The Bobcats look forward to working together this season to build a solid team capable of competing at the highest level. #GoCats