Trojans Set to Open 2018-2019 Campaign on Hardwood
UPLAND, Ind. – The Taylor men’s basketball program will open its 2018-2019 campaign on Tuesday night inside Odle Arena when it hosts Northwestern Ohio in a 7:00 pm start.
The Trojans posted a second-straight winning season with a 16-15 mark in 2017-2018 and return their top-five scorers from a squad that improved its scoring total for the third-straight year with 82.4 points per outing.
“We believe this year’s team will play an exciting brand of basketball,” remarked sixth-year head coach Josh Andrews. “We have some versatile, veteran playmakers who will be expected to compete and make decisions at a high level.”
The up-tempo pace will continue for TU in the 2018-2019 season, after the program posted its highest per-game scoring average in over four decades and poured in at least 80 points in 17-of-31 outings. Taylor also reached the 90-point mark in 11 games and averaged 91.2 points per game over the final six outings of the season.
Taylor returns seven players in total from one year ago, including three regular starters and two more that logged double-digit starts. The Trojans will look to blend that returning talent with a six-man incoming unit.
“We have good depth and want to use that to our advantage,” continued Andrews. “Our focus will continue to be to play great team basketball and to compete with a true sense of pride. If we will steadily improve in areas of execution and finishing plays, we expect this group to have the opportunity to be special.”
The junior backcourt duo of Ryan Robinson and Mason Degenkolb will set the tone once again, after each claimed Preseason Third-Team All-Crossroads League accolades. The tandem accounted for 32.0 points and 6.4 assists per night last season, while combining to sink 7.0 free throws per outing at a nearly automatic rate of 89.6 percent. Robinson took the lead last season with a team-best 17.2 points per night, while Degenkolb played to NAIA All-American honors two seasons ago with a team-leading 17.0 points per contest.
Robinson and Degenkolb will be bolstered on the perimeter by sharp-shooters Evan Crowe and Vincent Miranda. Crowe enters his senior campaign as a career 39.9-percent shooter from long distance with 216 three-point makes to his credit through three seasons, while Miranda impressed during his rookie campaign with a 38.5-percent rate from deep and 8.5 points per outing over TU’s final 19 contests.
Senior Jake Heggeland will return to anchor Taylor on the interior once again, and is expected to be joined in the paint by rising sophomore James McCloud. Heggeland took yet another step forward with career-highs of 12.7 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per night in his third season in Upland. McCloud flashed his potential by pacing TU with 0.25 rebounds per minute played, while regularly serving as the squad’s defensive stopper.
Additional post help will come from senior Emmanuel Boateng, as well as from incoming freshmen CJ Penha and Jason Hubbard. Boateng led Taylor with nearly one block per 10 minutes of work during his first year in uniform with the Purple and Gold and should continue to contribute on defense, while the pair of Penha and Hubbard each look to stretch opposing defenses and add even more athleticism to the TU roster.
The Trojans will be tested early and often, with 13 games on the schedule against teams ranked inside the NAIA Preseason Top-25 and an exhibition against NCAA Division I Miami Ohio on November 5.
Taylor will take on four Top-10 foes in its first nine games and will open Crossroads League play on October 30 with No. 23 Bethel coming to Paul Patterson Court. Other highlights include the 22nd-Annual Ivanhoes Silent Night Game on December 7 at 6:00 pm against Grace Christian and the cross-county clashes at IWU on January 8 and at home against the Wildcats on February 5.