by Josh Decker
The 2020-2021 season was a difficult yet successful year for the Cedarville men’s basketball team.
After finishing with a 10-8 regular season record, the Yellow Jackets entered last season’s Great Midwest Athletic Conference (G-MAC) tournament as the No. 6 seed and notched key victories over Kentucky Wesleyan and Findlay before ultimately falling just short to Malone in the G-MAC tournament championship.
Now with the 2021-2022 campaign on the horizon, Cedarville is looking to build off last year’s success with a highly-talented, deep roster.
The Jackets’ come in ranked fifth in the G-MAC Preseason Coaches’ Poll, behind Hillsdale, newcomer Ashland, Findlay, and Malone. Former assistant coach Pat Bain accepted a position with former Cedarville women’s head coach Kari Hoffman at Wright State and graduate assistant Demond Parker joined Division I Baylor University’s coaching staff.
Other than the loss of the self-proclaimed Towel Gang, who were a constant source of leadership and energy on the bench, Cedarville brings back a fully reloaded roster from last season.
The Yellow Jackets return all of their top eight scorers from last season, five of whom averaged double digits per game, including starting point guard Braden Maughmer.
The standout senior averaged 16.2 points per game last season on his way to earning G-MAC first-team and all-defensive team honors.
The Chillicothe native is focused on continuing to become a better leader and player for his team.
“[I want to] facilitate and be a better vocal leader,” said Maughmer.
Cedarville also returns 6-foot-7-inch redshirt senior Quinton Green, who trailed only Maughmer in points per game last year, averaging 13.0 a contest.
Senior Kollin VanHorn remains one of the top forwards in the conference, and was third in scoring with 12.0 points per game last season.
Conner TenHove, who took advantage of the NCAA’s decision to grant athletes an extra year of eligibility due to COVID-19, comes back for his sixth season with the Jackets. He was fourth on the roster in scoring last year with 11.6 points per game and led Cedarville in 3-point shooting percentage at 41%.
“I think we are in really good spot as a team,” said TenHove. “My biggest area of improvement I am striving for is my defense. I also want to continue to improve as a leader and someone who has a veteran presence for our team.”
The Jackets also bring back senior Isaiah Speelman, the vocal leader on and off the court for the Jackets. Speelman averaged 10.3 points per game while shooting 35 percent from behind the arc.
Junior Jacob Drees has emerged as a key rebounder, as are sophomores Jayvon Maughmer and Grant Whisman, all pivotal pieces to Cedarville’s success last year.
With the addition of Liberty transfer Tytist Dean and freshmen Brayden Sipple and Timmy Davis, it is clear just how loaded head coach Pat Estepp’s roster is with veterans and depth.
The Jackets faced off against Division I University of Dayton on November 1st in an exhibition matchup, falling to the Flyers 94-60, though the game gave Cedarville a great opportunity to prepare for the upcoming season against high-end talent and athleticism.
“It obviously was a big challenge, but everyone was excited. It’s an awesome environment and a really good test to see where we’re at before the season starts,” said Speelman.
Cedarville’s regular season will tip off on November 12th when the Yellow Jackets travel to Quincy, Illinois for the Midwest Region Crossover to take on NABC preseason No. 6 Truman State. The game is slated to begin at 5:00 p.m.
The Jackets’ are already looking to the end of the season with high goals as the team looks to capitalize on such a talented roster.
“I expect us to win the conference tournament and have the best year as a team we have had in my time here,” explained TenHove.
Branden Maughmer echoed his teammate, saying, “Just win a G-MAC title and then make a tournament run.”
Estepp is also optimistic about the skill and potential for his team this season.
“I think the guys have competed really hard this fall,” Estepp explained. “Obviously we have some goals we would love to accomplish at the end of the year, but I think the main thing for us is just trying to make sure we’re getting better every day.”
Josh Decker is a senior Sport Business Management major, and a sports reporter for Cedars. He loves playing sports with friends, and spends much of his free time as a student assistant for the Cedarville men’s basketball team.