For the Defiance College basketball team, Friday has been a long day coming.
After having an ambitious Division I-heavy non-league schedule completely wiped out by COVID issues, the Yellow Jacket men’s team will finally start its sixth season under head coach Scott Cutter on Friday at 8 p.m. at the Karl Weaner Center on the campus of Defiance College.
The Jackets’ opponent will be a familiar one as rival Bluffton visits DC on Friday before the men’s and women’s teams travel to Bluffton Saturday.
The DC women will start things off at 6 p.m. on Friday before the 8 p.m. men’s tipoff. Saturday’s contests will tip off at 2 p.m. for the women and 4 p.m. for the men.
The two-game weekend will be the first of six straight weekends of home-and-away contests with Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference opponents.
Bluffton has had three games played during the unorthodox 2020-21 season, all against the Adrian Bulldogs.
The Beavers beat Adrian 61-59 on Nov. 20 then won a pair of home games with the Bulldogs on Dec. 11 (72-71) and Dec. 12 (68-52).
Dezman Brown (5-11, Sr., Elyria) and Jameel Cosby (6-1, Jr., Springfield, Ohio) lead five players averaging double figures with 14 points per game each. Brown adds 3.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per contest while Cosby has nabbed 12 boards in two contests.
Aaron Rich, a 6-5 senior from Greenville, Ohio, is averaging a double-double with 13 points and 11.5 rebounds a game. Freshman Damian Davis (5-10, Fr., Bexley, Ohio) had 10 points in his lone game this year while Mike Ketner (6-0, So., Minster, Ohio) has netted 10 ppg in two outings.
If preseason picks play out as predicted, the weekend’s matchups should be exciting ones as Bluffton earned 45 points in the HCAC preseason coaches poll, good for sixth, while Defiance was just three points back in seventh.
The Jackets had five players on the 2020-21 Players to Watch list released by the league. Juniors Marell Jordan (6-2, 14.8 ppg, 4.7 spg in 2019-20) and Tyler Andrew (6-5, 12.5 ppg, 4.9 rpg) made the list, along with the sophomore trio of Jack Kolar (6-3, 8.2 ppg, 3 rpg, 58-of-150 3-pointers), Avonte Jones (6-0, 5.3 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 1.6 apg) and Stryker product Chase Glock (6-6, 5.1 ppg, 2.1 rpg).
Along the aforementioned five Jacket players, 6-4 freshman guard Dan Luers (Middletown Bishop Fenwick) will likely see major time as the starting point guard. Freshmen guards Cameron Awls (6-0) and Andre Edwards (6-2) will also be candidates to see the floor.
Brown, Cosby, Rich and 5-10 senior guard Ronnie James (3 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 2.5 apg) made the Players to Watch list for the Beavers.
Meanwhile, the DC women open the doubleheader with a game at 6 p.m. on Friday.
“Honestly, I think the girls are ready to explode,” DC women’s basketball coach Allan King said of getting the season started. “We’ve only scrimmaged against each other five times. We haven’t gone up against anyone else.”
After this weekend, DC will play weekend series against Franklin, Anderson, Manchester, Earlham and Mount St. Joseph.
“It’s like an extended NCAA Tournament,” King said of the new HCAC schedule, which will see all Friday and Saturday games. “I can’t wait to see these league games. You can’t over-coach it. This is going to be fun.”
Defiance, which was picked sixth in the HCAC preseason poll, had four players named to the HCAC Watch List in Taylor Day, Josi Wolf, Nicole Sims and Kalyn Pickens.
Day comes back for her junior season after leading the Yellow Jackets in points (9.1) and rebounds (4.9) per game last season.
While Defiance has not played a game, Bluffton is currently 6-1 on the season. King is trying to not make the game experience a factor for the upcoming weekend.
“Normally, I would say yes, but this year is different,” said the DC coach. “This year, I am happy for the opportunity.”
However, being in shape to play is something the DC mentor is worried about.
“I’m going to play a lot of kids,” mentioned King. “More than injury, I’m worried about shape.”
For the Beavers, sophomore Samantha Shardo is one of the players to watch. In seven starts, she leads the team with 8.6 points. Senior Nora Hemminger has also started all seven games and averages 8.0 points per game.
Another player listed on the watch list is junior Brianna Gillig, who has tallied 19 points a game, but has seen action in just two games.
No spectators allowed at athletic events
until at least mid-February
Due to rising health concerns related to the spread of the coronavirus, the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Council of Presidents and Defiance College have decided to not allow spectators at any athletic events until at least Feb. 15, 2021. The HCAC, which Defiance has been a member of since 2000, will reevaluate this policy next month.
Currently, the Yellow Jackets are scheduled to open their 2020-21 women’s and men’s basketball seasons by hosting rival Bluffton University in a doubleheader Friday. The women’s game is slated for 6 p.m. while the men’s contest follows at approximately 8 p.m. Live video streaming of both is available.
Then on Saturday, DC plans to begin its wrestling season when Olivet College comes to town. The individual matches are set to start at 2 p.m. and will also be live streamed.
The no fans policy also affects Defiance volleyball and men’s and women’s indoor track and field. Those programs are also scheduled to host events before Feb. 15.