2020 Bobcat Season Preview
Steve Shepherd enters his 19th season at the helm of the bobcats and saw his 2019-20 team capture second place in the A.I.I. conference and qualify for the NAIA DII Men’s Basketball National Championship.
With the graduation of Brandt Cochran, the Bobcats will have big shoes to fill. Cochran, who garnered both NAIA and NCCAA All-American honors, was the Bobcats leader in multiple statistical categories. He ranked nationally in the top three in free throw percentage (90.5), the top ten in total three point field goals made(106) and total assists(167) and in the top 20 in assists per game(5.06), three point field goals made per game(3.2), and total scoring (645).
A pair of seniors look to lead the way for the bobcats in 2020-21. Treydon Rackley (Republic, MO) started all 33 games for the Bobcats a year ago. The team’s second leading scorer shot 50 percent from the field and 42 percent from three-point range. He also dished out 68 assists and led the team with 42 steals. Trey Gibson (Webb City, MO) started nine games in the 2019-20 campaign and saw significant action in 31 of the 33. His experience and solid guard play will be key contributions for the 2020-21 Bobcats.
With no juniors on the 2020-21 squad, the sophomores, who gained valuable experience a year ago, will be counted on for valuable contributions. Ayden Stone (Thayer, MO) busted onto the college scene having started in all 33 games as a freshman. His accuracy around the basket (55% FG) and his ability to create scoring opportunities will be even more important this season. His team leading nine rebounds per game gave him even more opportunities to put points on the board a year ago. Andrew Mitchell (Blue Eye, MO) was another key contributor for the Bobcats in 2019-20. Starting in 23 games as a freshman saw him become more comfortable on the floor and able to become a solid all-around part of the Bobcat line-up. Shooting 46% from the field and 44% from three-point range, Mitchell used his 6’4 frame as an advantage on both ends of the floor. Contributing 9.2 points per game, 3.5 rebounds per game to go with his 25 assists, Mitchell looks to continue growing those numbers this season. Matt Luebbert (Warsaw, MO) also played in all 33 games as a freshman and was a valuable contributor. As a 6’4 guard, Luebbert’s hustle and athleticism provide a difficult matchup on the Bobcat perimeter. his 3.1 points and 2.1 rebounds per game will continue to rise in 2020-21. The large sophomore class is rounded out by, Cooper Long (Mountain Home, AR), Skyler Levendosky (Neosho, MO), and Nathan Burnett (Risco, MO), all who look to increase their contributions and impact in 2020-21.
The Bobcats have four newcomers on this year’s squad. Tanner Rogers (6’1, Webb City, MO) is a prolific 3-point shooter who loves to play defense. He is a physically strong and fundamentally sound player that will be able to contribute in a variety of ways. Garrett Simmerman (6’9, Ash Grove, MO) will give the Bobcats another sizeable presence in the paint. He has solid moves around the basket, helping him create scoring opportunities. He is also able to stretch the floor with good range away from the basket. Tanner Diaz (5’11, Steelville, MO) will add a true point guard to the line-up. his great court vision elevates the level of play of his teammates. Josh Linehan (6’5, Rogersville, MO) rounds out the freshman class. He is a strong, athletic, and physically talented player who can score inside and out. He is an intense competitor who will provide a spark for the Bobcats on both ends of the floor.
The primary challenge will be the loss of All-American and leading scorer Brandt Cochran. the Bobcats will need to replace the numbers in Cochran’s statistical columns. To do that, the younger players will need to continue to mature and grow into possible new, more enhanced roles.
The Bobcats will have plenty of returning players who have valuable experience from a national tournament team. Coach Shepherd says, “I am excited about our team. Our returning players have gained valuable experience and our new guys all have a chance to come in and contribute right away. We have a fundamentally sound group that likes to compete. We feel we have the ingredients for a solid season so the key to our success will be chemistry and how we work together as a team”.
The Bobcats look forward to growing and working together this season to make a charge in the A.I.I. and a return trip to the national championships.