November 3, 2011
Bluffton seniors set sights high for final campaign in Founders Hall
After working themselves back into the thick of the HCAC race in
2010-11, the Beavers look to be a major 'player' in conference
competition again this season with an eye on coming closer to the
HCAC championship. Bluffton looks to add to its streak of six
winning seasons in the past seven years as the Beavers prepare for
what is likely their last full campaign in Founders Hall. With the
HFEC project in full swing, Bluffton should make the move to its
new Health and Fitness Complex for most or all of the 2012-13
season. A senior class that has been a significant contributor for
the past three years would like nothing better than to walk out of
Founders Hall with a Heartland Conference championship in
Although team captain Rob Luderman and Cam Saylor played their
final collegiate basketball for the Beavers in 2010-11, five
seniors are ready to pick up where they left off last season when
they posted 13 more wins than they had as sophomores. The top seven
scorers return from a squad that knocked off HCAC champion
Manchester en route to a berth in the six-team Heartland Conference
tournament. With a balance of inside-outside scoring and a
tenacious defense, Bluffton has the makings of a team that will
cause matchup problems on both ends of the floor. The Beavers can
light it up from deep or throw it down to one of three outstanding
finishers in the post.
Bluffton's top threat from beyond the arc is also the engine
that drives the Beavers. Senior Mychal Hill
(London/Jonathan Alder), a two-time All-Heartland Conference
performer, runs the show for Bluffton, handing out dimes and
dialing long distance. He led the Beavers with 14.2 PPG, while
hitting over 85 percent at the line and 42 percent on triples.
Nick Lee (Vanlue) gives Bluffton another
experienced senior guard who knows what to do with the ball at
crunch time. Lee connected on 43-of-101 from deep and he dished out
40 assists in his second season as a starter. Providing the Beavers
with both size and quickness on the perimeter, 6-4 wing
Nate Heckelman (Norwalk) handles the ball like a
point guard and rebounds like a power forward.
One of Bluffton's athletic finishers around the basket, senior
Brent Farley (Lima/Shawnee) pulled down a
team-high 7.5 rebounds per game and blocked 34 shots last season.
He finished third on the team with 50 assists and fourth with 8.9
points per game. Steve Swick (Elida) was hampered
by an injury for much of the 2010-11 campaign, but he will be
counted on to provide leadership and depth for the Beavers this
Bluffton's second All-HCAC performer from a season ago,
Josh Fisher (Rockford/Parkway) dropped in 9.7
points per game while picking up a team-best 28 steals as a
sophomore. He can shoot from deep and slash to the hoop, making it
difficult for opposing defenses to slow him down. Junior
Tyler Neal (Bluffton) gave the Beavers solid
minutes off the bench, running the offense while allowing Hill to
recharge. Neal is a quiet leader with a knack for finding the open
man. Matt Gerdeman (Delphos/Jefferson), who missed
most of his sophomore season with an injury, will be counted on to
give the Beavers another option in the post.
A pair of 2010-11 freshman post players gave the Beavers a
formidable inside game to complement Hill and Lee's shooting from
outside the arc. Will Pope (Camden/Preble Shawnee)
opened the season with a pair of double-doubles while fellow banger
Dustin Kinn (Alvada/New Riegel) provided a
physical presence at both ends of the court. Pope put up 10.0 PPG
and 6.1 RPG in less than 19 minutes of playing time each night.
Kinn made his shots count, knocking down a team-high 62 percent of
his attempts and dropping in just under seven points per contest.
Jon Fowler (Cincinnati/St. Xavier), a 6-8
sophomore, has the size and athleticism to join Bluffton's rotation
down low. Dillon Long (Rockford/Parkway) is a
sophomore post player who could work his way into the picture if he
continues to progress.
Seeing more and more playing time as the season progressed,
2011-12 sophomore Josh Johnson (Ottawa-Glandorf)
gave the Beavers another legitimate threat from three-ball land.
Johnson was 19-of-54 on triples and he also converted nearly 80
percent of his foul shots. Although fellow sophomores Blade
Tackett (Bucyrus/Wynford) and Matt
Weisenborn (Tontogany/Otsego) saw limited varsity action
for the Beavers a season ago, they are ready to push for more
playing time on the perimeter this year.
Making the Heartland Conference tournament is a goal on the
Beavers' list every season and 2011-12 is no different. The
expectations do not end there, however, as Bluffton brings back
over 90 percent of its scoring and rebounding from last season. The
Bluffton returners have combined for nearly 200 career starts,
making this year's team one of the most experienced ever. The HCAC
looks to be extremely balanced once again with 2010-11 champion
Manchester suffering the biggest losses due to graduation. Hanover
and Rose-Hulman both return the bulk of their production from last
year while Transylvania will likely find itself in the mix.
Expectations are extremely high after the Beavers posted
a +13 win total a season ago. Just two years removed from a 2-23
campaign, Bluffton is once again ready to have a say in how the top
of the Heartland Conference standings play out. The Beavers have
worked hard in the off-season and with the excitement generated by
the new Health and Fitness Complex, 2011-12 promises to make for a
memorable send off to Founders Hall.