By STEPHEN K. LEE; Sports Reporter-Mobile Press Register
With 11 newcomers and just three returning players from last year's squad, the Bishop State men's basketball team heads into this season essentially starting from scratch.
"We're trying to see who's going to step up and when they're going to step up," said Wildcats coach J.D. Shelwood. "It's a process of getting the kids out there and get them to know each other because we're very inexperienced this year."
Bishop State has holes to fill on both ends of the court as Anthino Finklea, who averaged a team-high 12.5 points per game last season, and Adam Payne, the Alabama Community College Conference's top shot blocker, are no longer with the team.
Scholarship losses prevented both the men's and women's teams from competing in the ACCC state tournament last season but, with a 7-17 record, the men would have qualified.
"We were definitely good enough to go," Shelwood said. "I'm pretty sure (the sophomores) will remember that and hopefully they will strive to get in that same situation as far as wins and losses and that sort of thing. It had nothing to do with them winning this game or that game. That didn't determine whether we went. It was just something that shouldn't have happened, happened."
Shelwood hopes the sophomores (forwards Jeremy Amey, Timothy Smith and William Ely) who played on that disqualified team will step up this year. Shelwood said this year's Wildcats will, as all of his teams have done, play man-to-man defense. However, he said they'd be more flexible offensively. "You've got to kind of get the offense in with the style of your players ? your fundamentals, situations with your players, how good they are, if they do this well or that well," Shelwood said. "So we're kind of trying to get the offense to fit the players."
Bishop State tips off its regular season Thursday, hosting Keesler Air Force Base at 8 p.m. at the former Shaw High School, where the Wildcats will play their home games this season.