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2019 Bobcat Season Preview

College of the Ozarks men’s basketball team has been hard at work in the off-season and is ready to take the court for their 2019-2020 season.

Steve Shepherd enters his 17th season at the helm of the Bobcats and saw his 2018-19 team capture second place in the A.I.I. Conference and qualify for the NAIA DII Men’s Basketball National Championship.

The Bobcats will return four starters from last year’s squad—Brandt Cochran, Treydon Rackley, Klay Barton, and Storm Price.Unfortunately for the team, Price will be unable to compete this season due to injury and will be sorely missed on the floor. His intensity and desire always made a big impact. Thankfully, Price will provide some coaching assistance from the sidelines.

Cochran will be the lone senior taking the court this year.He had a tremendous junior season, and the Bobcats are looking for his senior year to be his best yet.In 2018-19, Cochran contributed 21 points and 4.6 rebounds per game, shooting 50.2% from the field.From beyond the arc, Cochran shot 47.4%, draining an impressive 126 three-pointers. His 2018-19 stat line included 153 assists and 51 points. On of the best offensive players of the NAIA according the Shepherd, Cochran can shoot from all over the court, drive the basket, and dish out the assists.Brandt will provide production in the stats but also senior leadership both on and off the court.

Junior returners feature Rackley and Trey Gibson.Rackley is slated to be an impact player for Coach Shepherd.He has recorded two outstanding seasons in his time with the Bobcats and looks to take another step up this season.As a sophomore, Rackley averaged 10.4 points and 4.8 rebounds per game.He shot 49.6% from the field, netted 46 treys, handed of 87 assists, swiped 43 steals, and blocked ten shots.With the ability to shoot and defend, Rackley should be a key contributor to the lineup.Gibson joined the team in the latter part of last season, playing in eight games and providing the team with some depth.Gibson has made a great deal of improvement since last season on both ends of the court, and Shepherd intends to make good use of his ability to drive the ball to the basket and play strong defense.

Barton, a sophomore, had a strong freshman season for the Bobcats.He averaged 7.4 points and 2.4 rebounds per game. He shot 40.9% from the field and tallied 28 three pointers, 89 assists, and 11 steals. With his rebounding abilities and shooting further developed, Barton will be counted on for productions at both ends this season.

The size of the freshman class is one of the Bobcats’ largest, with ten newcomers added to the roster.The forwards are Ayden Stone, Trent McBride, and Dylan Massey. Stone (6’5, Thayer, Mo.) is a high energy, very aggressive player with a nose for the ball.He plays relentless defense, rebounds, and can shoot from all areas of the court. McBride (6’7, Eminence, Mo.) has a knack for being able to score.He is also a good rebounder and defender, who will be called on to make an impact in the post. Massey (6’5, Mountain Grove, Mo.) was recruited due to his athleticism, height, and strong post presence. Sadly, a preseason injury will keep him out of this year’s lineup.Shepherd will be eagerly looking forward to his return next year.Freshman guards feature Jake Farnsworth, Riley Obebeck, 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. A terrific passer, he can also put the ball on the floor and take it to the basket. Oberbeck (6’3, Strafford, Mo.) is making good progress coming off an injury. He passes well, is a good shooter, finishes strong at the rim, and uses his length to make athletic plays. Long (6’2, Mountain Home, Ark.) is a talented offensive player with solid shooting ability, whom Shepherd believes will provide a spark off the bench. Luebbert (6’4, Warsaw, Mo.) is an athletic wing player who is scrappy.He has great hustle and is an athletic wing player. A multi-sport athlete in high school, it is anticipated Luebbert will excel as he concentrates solely on basketball. Mitchell (6’4, Blue Eye, Mo.) is a terrific shooter with great three-point range.Mitchell is anticipated to be a catalyst on offensive and make good use of his height in rebounding. Levendosky (6’l, Neosho, Mo.) will look to contribute in the scoring column, as his strength is his outside shooting. Burnett (5’10, Risco, Mo.)is a solid point guard with good passing skills, who can also shoot it.Burnett will bring strong all-around offensive and defensive skills.

Strengths for the Bobcats will continue to be in their guard play, with their returners being counted on to carry a big part of the load.The team possesses good ball handling, passing, and shooting skills, so their offense is expected to remain strong.

Challenges include the loss of All-American Ethan Davidson and Heath Carmichael, both of whom made significant contributions in all stat categories for the Bobcats.In addition, the return of only five players from last season, added to the influx of ten new freshman, will likely cause the Cats to experience some growing pains.

“We have great teamwork, and our team members are very unselfish,” stated Shepherd.“I am excited about our new guards, as they are capable of stepping on the court and making a significant impact s.We have a deep bench filled with talent and size, but most importantly we have a hard-working group who is excited about the season.”

The Bobcats look forward to growing and working together this season to make a charge in the A.I.I. and, hopefully, a return trip to the National Championships.