Despite searching for a new identity, the MC Scots basketball team is filled with plenty of talent and potential to repeat as the USA South Conference champions. Maryville has been picked in a three-way tie for second in the USA South West Division 2019-2020 preseason poll.
The Scots enter the 2019-2020 season coming off of a 21-8 record, a USA South Conference championship, and an appearance in the NCAA postseason tournament (the program’s 20th appearance). The historic season ended in the first round of the tournament when the Scots traveled to Marietta College and lost by a score of 101-77.
“The unique thing about last year’s championship is that we did it on the road, compared to the year before when we won it here,” said first year head coach Raul Placeres. “It was another year of 20+ wins and another trip to the NCAA tournament.”
The Scots graduated seven seniors from last year’s team. Placeres will need to find multiple players and ways to replace the contributions of forward Dante Hoppa who made 1,000 points and 500 rebounds in his career, guard Calvin Songster who holds the career three-point record, and forward Emier Bowman who made 500 rebounds and 150 blocks in his career.
Placeres brought in twelve freshmen this year. He expects at least six to seven of them to heavily contribute to the team at some point this season. Felix Uadiale, Barron Neese, Brice Martin, and Kordell Kah are four of the freshmen that Placeres expects to receive heavy playing time right away.
Trevor Gaines-Perry, JP McGee, Kevin Chong, and Jordan Griswould were in the rotation some last year, but this season each one of them will have a bigger role on the team and will receive plenty of chances to make big plays.
JR Sanders will be put into the starting point guard position for the first time in his career. Nicholas Clifton came on strong in the second half of the season last year and finished with an average of 1.2 blocks and 5.8 rebounds per game. The lone senior on the team, Josh Brooks–8.5 ppg and 1.7 apg–has ascended into the role of team leader seamlessly.
Josh Brooks playing defense during a preseason matchagainst Transylvania University. Photo by Lesli Nolazco
“We have a really young team,” Placeres said. “We have one senior in, Josh Brooks. He’s the CEO of the team. He’s running the team in practice, in the weight room, and the film room. He’s done an exceptional job leading the young guys to be the best that they can be.”
The Scots may lack experience but they have the height, athleticism and speed to thrive on both sides of the court. The team standard, goal and mindset remains the same.
“We want to lead our conference and make a run in the NCAA tournament,” Gaines-Perry said. “We know we are a young team, but we have all the tools necessary to make a run in the NCAA tournament. I’m really excited to see what this team looks like once we really start to reach our potential.”
The Scots open up the season in Murfreesboro, Tenn. in an exhibition match against the Middle Tennessee State University Blue Raiders, a Division I school. In 2016 MTSU pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the year when they defeated the number two seed, Michigan State University, in the NCAA tournament.
“I wanted to do it for our kids, for the program, for the college,” Placeres said. “We’re going to be able to play in front of 8,000 fans, and that is a really neat experience for our guys. They’re a good team that has traditionally been very good at their level. We’re looking forward to the opportunity to play on that big stage.”