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Men’s Basketball Ready for Challenging but Exciting Year on the Hardwood

Josh Bowlds, Staff Writer

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There are still questions facing Coach Happy Osborne and his team as they prepare to enter their 2017-2018 campaign on October 30th when they travel to the University of Louisville for an exhibition game at the KFC Yum! Center. However, Coach Osborne and his staff feel confident that this is going to be an exciting year on the hardwood for the Panthers. “We’re really excited about this season, thanks to Independence Bank, Legends, Mayor Tom Watson and The City of Owensboro, and the Convention Center,” said Coach Happy. The head coach of the Panthers also stated that fans should be prepared for new improvements to the Sportscenter, including a new floor, new video scoreboards, and updates made to the concession stands and restrooms. He stated, “I love having Kentucky Wesleyan and new in the same sentence.”

One of the challenges facing the team this year will be the lack of returning experience on the court, as the Panthers only have two seniors on their roster and welcomed several new players in the offseason. In fact, the Panthers only returned four players from last year’s fifteen-man roster. “We’re a brand new team; it’s like our first year again,” said Happy. New additions to the roster include 6’9 forward Amir Warnock, who comes from Alabama State University where he averaged 4.4 PPG and 4.6 RPG, 6’2 guard Chandler Redix, who previously played at East Los Angeles Community College, where last season he put up on average 9.3 PPG, 4.9 RPG, and 4.0 APG, 6’9 forward Dakota Quinn, 6’3 guard Rasheide Bell, 6’3 guard Bird Cardwell, who transferred from Arkansas Baptist Junior College where he averaged over 15 PPG, while shooting well over 56% from the 3-PT line, among others. However, Happy continued to say, “they have all been very good.” The Panthers will return 6’2 guard Brandon Hatton, who averaged 6.5 PPG and 1.4 RPG last season, and 6’8 forward Malek Harris, who averaged 10.6 PPG and 6.3 RPG last season for the Panthers. “We’re excited to have them back.”

Over the past two seasons, the Panthers have been nothing short of successful on the court, compiling a 55-7 record, including going 50-2 in their last 52 home games at the Sportscenter, winning back-to-back GMAC championships in 2016 and 2017, and finishing the season ranked inside the Top 10 in the nation. However, the Panthers have lost in the first round of the NCAA Midwest Regional Tournament the past two seasons and have not advanced to the second round since the 2011-2012 season. It’s no mystery that the Panthers are considered an elite team across the country every year, even before the season starts; while this year is no exception, the Panthers may find their success in a different spot. Although there are numerous opportunities in November to make a statement and prove themselves capable of winning, including: two Division One opponents, the Small College Basketball Hall of Fame Classic hosted by USI, and the GMAC/GLIAC Classic in Detroit, Michigan, this year’s team may peak at the right time and find wins later. “Our schedule is tremendously hard,” said Osborne. “Our goal is to just keep getting better and better. It’s a process and we have to get better every day. You’re not going to see the best of this team until February.” Osborne believes that this team can be poised and prepared to win games in the tournament but it’s going to be about how they are able to handle adversity, and possibly some early season struggles, to bounce back ready for conference play. “It’s the end that matters, the ability to stay the course.”

Osborne is excited about this season as it brings new challenges to him and his staff, but they are confident in this team’s ability and skill set. “I think our guard play is very good; we’re going to be quick.” While he admits the length of his team is a possible weakness this season, he believes what they lack in length and size, they will make up for in their speed and agility. While all the questions facing this team and their season have not been answered, only time will tell for the Panthers as a daunting November schedule is only but days away.

Panther fans are invited to support their team as they will officially kick off their season on Saturday night, October 21st, at the Sports Center with “Fan Fest”. Osborne invites the entire Owensboro community and Wesleyan family to this event to kick off their season. “We’ll have hot dogs for one dollar and a chance to win free Chick-Fil-A for a year.” The event will start at six p.m. and will feature a dunk and three-point contest as well as a scrimmage game between the Panthers. Lucky fans will also be chosen to participate in the contests with the Panthers on the court.

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Men’s Basketball Ready for Challenging but Exciting Year on the Hardwood