KOKOMO, Ind. - With the 2013-2014 Cougar basketball season right around the corner, fans will notice significant changes from the previous seasons, both on and off the court. On the hardwood, the Cougars have added new faces that will join the six returners from last season. Six transfers and five freshmen have been added to the young and growing program that finished 9-21 last year.
Off the court, IU Kokomo sees itself moving to the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, after joining the NAIA last season. One significant change is the addition of the Cougar Gym, which gives the team a place to call home and host 13 opponents this season.
Now in his third season at the helm of the IU Kokomo program, head coach Jace Thompson’s squad is loaded with talent, returning six players from last year’s roster - including three starters - and the addition of 11 newcomers.
“Our new additions to the team help us in many aspects both on the floor and in the locker room,” said Thompson. “We added a lot of leadership in some of our transfers and brought in some freshman who will compete each and every day during the season in order to help prepare the older guys.”
Leading the Cougars this winter is a pair of returning seniors, Spencer Krhin (9.2 points per game last season) and Taylor High School graduate Reomey Northington (9.6 ppg).
“As seniors we are expected to set a good example of work ethic and not only play hard, but smart,” said Krhin. “We have to bring energy and open minds to improve every day.”
Also back in the Cougar uniforms are juniors Jonathon Kelly (redshirt last season), Aaron Knupp and Jared Lawrence (8.9 ppg). Lone sophomore Jerome Campbell (6.7 ppg and three assists per game) returns after seeing heavy minutes his freshman year running the point for the squad.
“Coming in as a freshman and playing right away is tough, especially when you are playing against veteran guards,” said Campbell. “The offseason adjustments I made were spending time in the weight room to get stronger and put on weight and learning how to get other people open in order for them to score.”
The 11 newcomers Coach Thompson has added to the IU Kokomo men’s basketball program are comprised of five transfers, one junior college transfer, and five prep players.
The Cougars added Dylan Mosack, a senior center who transferred from the University of Illinois Springfield. Junior guards Nick Teeter and Randall Lowe come to IU Kokomo after starting their careers at Huntington University, and rounding out the group of transfers are junior forwards Bobby Blackwell (Danville Area Community College) and David Kelly (Purdue University North Central).
“I have enjoyed adjusting to this new program with the help of the faculty and staff at IU Kokomo,” said Lowe. “We have a great group of guys and my focus is to bring experience and leadership to this team having already played in another NAIA division two conference.”
Along with the transfers, Thompson recruited five new Cougars, all from the state of Indiana, for the upcoming campaign. The freshman class consists of a pair of teammates from Ben Davis High School, Kendall Broome and Jordan King. Also in the freshmen class are three talented guards: Jacob Howdeshell (Caston), Zach Meyer (Valparaiso) and Dean Hill (Boone Grove). Hill is an all-around athlete as he was also an Indiana All-Star in baseball this past spring.
Thompson has put together a quality non-conference schedule to prepare his squad for the rigors of KIAC play. The 2013-2014 regular season tipped off with a 75-62 loss at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Ill.
“Our non-conference schedule will be very challenging and hopefully provide an opportunity for us to grow and be prepared for the second half of the season run,” said Thompson. “Ask any coach and they will tell you they want to be good in March and that is our goal as well.”
The home schedule also includes visits from instate foes Indiana University South Bend and Indiana University Northwest as well as Salem International University and University of Cincinnati Clermont. Other highlights of the non-conference schedule include two NCAA Division I opponents, IPFW (Nov. 11) and Tennessee Tech (Nov. 21), and a trip to Marion on Dec. 28 to play Indiana Wesleyan University, an NAIA Sweet Sixteen performer a year ago.
KIAC play opens on Nov. 12 at Point Park University and the 17-game conference slate concludes when the Cougars travel to Saint Louis College of Pharmacy on Feb. 20.
(Courtesy of Indiana University Kokomo)