submitted photo/MSU

Grizzly Basketball season starts next week

The Missouri State University-West Plains (MSU-WP) Grizzly Basketball season is here.
Fans can get their first look at this year's squad at 4 p.m. October 30, during a preseason scrimmage against Link Year Prep at the West Plains Civic Center. Admission is free.
The regular season tips off next week, and fans can expect to see the Grizzlies go against some of the top teams in the nation as it progresses.
Second year head coach Jared Phay said he won't be utilizing the same starters each game. With the talented and experienced players, he has acquired for this year's squad, he can tailor his team to meet the unique challenges each opponent presents.
"One of the things I like about this team is that we don't have a clear top five who are better than the other five, so I envision mixing the starting line up around, depending on the game," he said. Phay is excited about this year's team. "We have a solid group of returning players and have added some transfers, so we have some mature players who really understand how to play," he said.
These include returning starters Byron Breland, a 6-foot, 4-inch guard from Hamden, Connecticut, who averaged 10.2 points a game and led the team in rebounding with 7.1 grabs per game; and Nico Hill, a 6-foot, 6-inch forward from Opunake, New Zealand, who averaged 7.2 points and 5.2 rebounds a game.
"Nico and Byron have been our leaders this season. They both understand how we want things done and have done a good job conveying that to the rest of the guys," Phay said.
Joining them will be fellow returners, Sebian Dillard, a 6-foot, 3-inch guard from Lexington, Kentucky; Ugo Eze, 6-foot, 8-inch forward from Kaduna, Nigeria; Mo Kora, 6-foot, 7-inch guard from Renton, Washington; Isaiah Wilson, a 6-foot, 1-inch point guard from Phoenix, Arizona; and area product Reese Dodson, a 6-foot, 2-inch guard from Salem. 
Also returning to the Grizzly fold this season is former signee Christian Robbins. The West Plains High School standout first signed with MSU-WP in 2016, but his time with the team was short-lived due to injury.
"We are excited to have Christian return to our program," Phay said. "Christian has been a great member of our community, and I am excited that he has decided to return to school. He is in good playing shape, and I know he will be a leader for our program!"
Newcomers include Merrick Small a 6-foot, 9-inch power forward from Queensland, Australia; Sterling White, a 6-foot, 3-inch point guard from Virginia Beach, Virginia; Donovan Freeman, a 6-foot, 3-inch transfer guard from Detroit, Michigan; Mehdi Pissis, a 6-foot, 5-inch guard from Sartrouville, France; Dallas Clayton, a 6-foot, 10-inch forward from Wellington, New Zealand; Luka Novakovic, a 6-foot, 6-inch guard from Serbia; Kevon Eskridge, a 6-foot, 4-inch guard from Norcross, Georgia; Isaiah Lewis, a 6-foot, 1-inch point guard from Romulus, Michigan; Taylor Harrison, a 6-foot, 4-inch guard from West Plains; and Sam Koban, a 7-foot, 3-inch forward from Nixa.
"We have a group that can play well together," Phay said. "We have a lot of depth, but each guy is a little different, so we can mix and match lineups. Our strength will be our basketball IQ."
That will be important as the Grizzlies face one of the toughest schedules in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA), and it all begins Nov. 2 when they host the reigning national champion Coffeyville Community College in their season home opener.
"Coffeyville is always good and will be as good this year as they were last year," Phay said. "They are big, strong and athletic, and they keep coming at you. We will be tested right out of the gate, but I wouldn't want it any other way!"
The Grizzlies' schedule doesn't get any easier. Three of their next four games will be against teams ranked in the top 15 of the NJCAA preseason poll. These include No. 2 Indian Hills Community College, No. 9 Kilgore College and No. 12 Odessa College. 
"I think our schedule is as tough as anyone in the NJCAA," Phay said. "Not only do we play Coffeyville, Odessa, Indian Hills and Kilgore, I think Region 16 will be one of the best regions in the country, so it's possible that, at the end of the season, we will have one of strongest, or possibly THE strongest, case for strength of schedule."
Region 16 includes the Grizzlies, No. 19 Moberly Area Community College, Mineral Area College, State Fair Community College and Three Rivers College, all of whom have seen success at various levels.
"We are going to have a lot of nights that, if we're not focused on competing and taking things one play at a time, we will get beat. We won't have much room for error. Our effort must be at the maximum level," Phay stressed.
The Grizzlies will be successful if they stay focused on competing, defend and rebound with maximum effort, take care of the ball and stay healthy.
"We will have a lot of close games, so every play will matter. We need to stay focused on the team first, and everyone will need to do their part and not try to do too much," he said.
For more information about the Grizzly Basketball program, visit or call 417-255-7991.
Content Paywall Trunction: 

Howell County News

110 W. Main St.,
Willow Springs, MO 65793

Comment Here