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October 30, 2008 3:02 am

New faces abound for NWC

Written by Tribune Staff

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Trapper sophomore Julian Olubuyi, shown during a slam dunk contest earlier this season, is one of only two returning players from last year's team. Tribune photo by David Dickey

Ward likes look of this year's squad

One might think Northwest College men's basketball coach Andy Ward would be a bit nervous about the start of the 2008-09 season Friday night.

After all, 13 players from last year's sophomore-dominated lineup are gone. However, thanks to a pair of solid returning players and a strong group of recruits, Ward enters the slate with optimism.

Among the players who departed NWC were leading scorers Brandon Lawson and Jason Burke-Kavros, who averaged just more than 11 and 10 points per contest, respectively. In addition to leading the team in scoring, they were the top two rebounders. The Trappers also lost a number of key three-point shooters in Michael Lebsack and Tyler Strong.

Sophomores Julian Olubuyi and Jordan Harris are the only returners from last season, and both are expected to play key roles this year as the Trappers attempt to finish among the top squads in the WCCAC and Region IX's North Sub-Region.

Olubuyi, a point guard, brings a wealth of experience to the court after a solid freshman campaign. He averaged above five points per game, and dished out almost 100 assists during 30 games in 2007-08. He also was No. 2 on the team in minutes played. Harris, a post player, garnered just less than eight minutes per game last year, but looks to factor more into this season's playing rotation.

“Julian (5-9) is a solid point guard,” Ward said. “He'll be one of the key guys for us, and we're expecting Jordan (6-9) to step up and have a strong sophomore year.”

As for the new faces in the Trappers' lineup, Ward is counting on a number of players to step in immediately. Casper Hesseldal, a 6-6 freshman from Denmark, can play at the wing and could see time at the post position. Ricardo Bodra, a 6-6 freshman from Brazil, will provide another solid player at the post position. Cody Ball, a 6-1 sophomore, transfered to NWC after originally attending MSU-Northern. Ball will man the No. 2 guard spot. He'll also join Olubuyi and Harris as the only sophomores on the team.

The remainder of this year's lineup includes Scott Odekirk (6-4, fr.), Mitchell Ackelson (5-10, fr.), Carnell Calhoun (6-1, fr.), Amen Osayande (6-7, fr.), Jay Peters (5-11, fr.), David Moats (5-10, fr.), Malcolm Colbert (6-4, fr.), Keith Kegerreis (6-4, fr.) and Anthony Harris (6-5, fr.).

Overall, Ward said he likes the look of this year's team, but he also expects a bit of a learning curve early because the lineup is dominated by freshmen.

“There are two major differences between this year's team and the one we had last year,” Ward said. “This year's group isn't quite as athletic, but they are more skilled, and I think they are going to be better defensively. These guys can run an up-tempo style, but we may not use it as much as we did last year. That will change from game to game depending on who we're playing.

“The other big thing about this group is that most of the guys don't have collegiate minutes under their belts. There will be some growing pains as they get experience, but I'm excited about this group, and I'm looking forward to seeing what they can do. The schedule is going to be pretty tough, particularly early. If we are winning early, it's going to mean we are beating some good teams.”

NWC's season is slated to start Friday during the two-day Trapper Tournament at Hank Cabre Gymnasium in Powell. The tournament will open Friday with a 5:30 p.m. matchup between Central Wyoming College and the College of Eastern Utah. At 7:30 p.m., the Trappers will face North Idaho College.

Saturday's action is scheduled to start following the Lady Trappers' volleyball match against Miles Community College. Ward said North Idaho is expected to play Central Wyoming at 3 p.m., and his Trappers will take on Eastern Utah following that matchup. Ward estimated the Trapper men's game will start at about 5 p.m. Saturday's start times, Ward said, could be pushed back depending on the length of the 1 p.m. volleyball match.

“We're looking forward to it,” Ward said of the season-opening tournament. “We're all excited about playing in the upgraded Cabre Gym, and I know the guys are looking forward to getting the season started. We're hoping a lot of people will come out because we'd really like to pack the gym.”