Golden Ea­gles take the court

Season be­gins Satur­day with Toi­let Pa­per Game

Siloam Springs Herald Leader - - FRONT PAGE - By Gra­ham Thomas Staff Writer gth­[email protected]

When the Sooner Ath­letic Con­fer­ence Men’s Bas­ket­ball Pre­sea­son Poll came out in mid-Oc­to­ber, John Brown coach Ja­son Beschta wasn’t sur­prised to see the Golden Ea­gles picked eighth.

“There are six teams in the league who were in the na­tional tour­na­ment last year,” Beschta said,. “So the best we were go­ing to start was seventh, and MACU (Mid-Amer­ica Chris­tian) had a strong re­cruit­ing class and they swept us last year, so they should be a step above us.”

John Brown fin­ished 1614 over­all in 2017-18 and 10-10 in SAC play, its best con­fer­ence fin­ish un­der Beschta. The Golden Ea­gles hope to con­tinue their climb up the con­fer­ence lad­der in 2018-19.

“I think we cer­tainly have ex­pec­ta­tions above that po­si­tion­ing, but we have to prove our way into that,” said Beschta, who’s en­ter­ing his fifth season at JBU. “There’s some re­ally good tal­ent in our league for sure.”

John Brown be­gins its season at 7 p.m. Satur­day against Ec­cle­sia in the an­nual Toi­let Pa­per Game at Bill Ge­orge Arena.

The Golden Ea­gles re­turn their top seven scor­ers from a year ago and it would have been eight, but se­nior guard Mar­quis Waller (9.1 points, 5.0 re­bounds) is ex­pected to red­shirt.

Ex­pect­ing to lead the way is se­nior guard Jake Cau­dle (6-1, Ben­tonville), who led the team in scor­ing at 18.6 points per game and made 92 of 216 (42.6 per­cent) from be­hind the 3-point line. Cau­dle was a first-team All-Sooner Ath­letic Con­fer­ence se­lec­tion and hon­or­able men­tion NAIA All-Amer­i­can last year.

“That’s a hard year to build on and im­prove on,” Beschta said of Cau­dle. “His num­bers and per­cent­ages were phe­nom­e­nal across the board. The funny thing with Jake is he just keeps rais­ing the bar by how hard he works.

He just keeps get­ting bet­ter. Other coaches in the league have a lot of re­spect for him.”

Se­nior for­ward Josh Bowl­ing (6-6, Detroit) had mo­ments last year where he looked like a first-team All-Con­fer­ence se­lec­tion, ex­plod­ing for 33 points against Ok­la­homa City and 35 against Texas Wes­leyan. Then there were other nights where he wasn’t as ef­fec­tive.

“He can be a re­ally dif­fi­cult matchup,” Beschta said of Bowl­ing.

Bowl­ing av­er­aged 12.8 points and 5.0 re­bounds per game and was an Al­lSAC hon­or­able men­tion se­lec­tion. Bowl­ing also hit 51 of 121 (42.7 per­cent) from be­hind the 3-point line.

“I hope that as a se­nior he’s go­ing to feel the ur­gency ev­ery game,” Beschta said. “He has a ten­dency to let the foot off the gas. I don’t think he’s lazy. I just think he’s too cal­cu­lated and smart for his own good. I think this year he’s go­ing to feel the pres­sure be­cause of our depth at his spot. If he takes the foot off the gas, we’ve got some guys that will play over him and we won’t skip a beat.”

The Golden Ea­gles do feel good about their depth at for­ward and in

the post with Bowl­ing, ju­nior Bren­ton Tous­saint (6-5, Clarence, La.), sopho­more Den­sier Carnes (6-6, At­lanta) and ju­nior Quintin Bai­ley (6-7 Strat­ford, New Eng­land).

“That’s four strong post guys for us,” Beschta said.

Tous­saint was hav­ing a solid season, av­er­ag­ing 7.5 points and 3.9 re­bounds per game be­fore an in­jury cut short his sopho­more season.

“Brent is a guy who started a lot of games for us, fin­ished the year in­jured and wasn’t able to play late,” Beschta said. “That hurt us. He just brings such a phys­i­cal pres­ence and he’s play­ing bet­ter than ever be­fore. His con­di­tion­ing is bet­ter, and he’s play­ing with a lot of con­fi­dence.”

Carnes is an­other one who strug­gled with in­juries, but his bout on the bench came on the front end of the season. Carnes wound up av­er­ag­ing 5.7 points per game, but over his last six games he scored more than 10 points per game.

“Den­sier re­ally stepped up for us when Brent got hurt last year and put up some big num­bers in the last hand­ful of games,” Beschta said. “He prob­a­bly has got the best chance of any of our posts of hav­ing mon­ster nights be­cause he can shoot the 3, drive, post up and get re­bounds. He’s a threat. Other coaches in our league loved him.”

Se­nior Ben Smith (6-8, Ben­tonville) has shown the ca­pa­bil­ity of scor­ing in bunches, once hit­ting 7 of 7 3-point­ers in a game against Phi­lan­der Smith. He gives the Golden Ea­gles an­other op­tion in the post and out­side.

“Ben Smith’s been a guy who can score for us and has had some big re­bound­ing nights,” Beschta said. “We’re so deep and com­pet­i­tive this year at that spot, he’s go­ing to have to be great at what he’s good at to beat out other guys to see time.”

Se­nior Dwayne Hart (6-8, Fal­mouth, Ja­maica) ap­pears to have turned a cor­ner for the Golden Ea­gles. Hart saw ac­tion in 16 games a year ago.

“He’s go­ing to fight to get some min­utes,” Beschta said. “He has an abil­ity to af­fect shots. He plays with a lot of en­ergy, is al­ways talk­ing on de­fense, just a great team guy.”

Red­shirt fresh­man Braden Bay­less (6-6, Tulsa) spent a year prac­tic­ing with JBU last year.

“He works ex­tremely hard and keep get­ting bet­ter,” Beschta said. “He’s got some older guys in front of him. We ex­pect in the fu­ture for him to be a guy that can help us.”

At the guard spots, sopho­more Rokas Grabli­auskas (6-4, Kau­nas, Lithua­nia/ Prov­i­dence Academy) started 24 games at point guard last year and led the team with 81 as­sists while av­er­ag­ing 6.6 points.

“Rokas doesn’t look like a guy that’s go­ing to be as good with the ball as he is,” Beschta said. “He is re­ally strong with the bas­ket­ball. He’s a guy you feel good with the ball. He calms us. He doesn’t get rat­tled by pres­sure.”

Sopho­more Nathan Corder (6-2, Alma) played in 28 games and av­er­aged 6.0 points and canned 44 of 116 3-point­ers (37.9 per­cent) which was third on the team be­hind Cau­dle and Bowl­ing.

“Nate im­proved a lot over the course of last year to where he con­trib­uted,” Beschta said of Corder. “He can flat-out shoot the bas­ket­ball. For us his abil­ity to de­fend and make good decisions is the thing that leads to him play­ing more or less. He’s got to work on the other things.”

JBU is bring­ing in sev­eral new faces to go with the re­turn­ing vet­er­ans.

Ju­nior trans­fer Des­mond Kennedy (6-3, Cedar Val­ley) gives the Golden Ea­gles an­other scor­ing punch at the wing along with Cau­dle.

“That’s the beauty of hav­ing an­other guy that can shoot the ball,” Beschta said. “He can cre­ate his own shot.”

An­other trans­fer is ju­nior for­ward Quintin Bai­ley (6-7, Strat­ford, New Zealand), who trans­fers in from Cit­rus (Calif.).

“He’s a smart player and su­per tough and strong,” Bescht said. “He’s a great passer as a post which is rare.”

Fresh­man guard Ira Per­rier (6-3, Brighton, Eng­land/The Van­guard School) is a good de­fen­sive player and a “phe­nom­e­nal team guy,” Beschta said.

“He’ll make us bet­ter this year and over his next four years.”

Fresh­man Luke Harper (6-3, Plano, Texas) can play on or off the ball and is re­ally strong and phys­i­cal for a fresh­man.

“He’s go­ing to be in the mix for a start­ing spot,” Beschta said.

The Golden Ea­gles plan to red­shirt fresh­man Nathan Stoltz (6-6, Col­lege Sta­tion, Texas).

Photo cour­tesy of JBU Sports In­for­ma­tion

John Brown for­ward Josh Bowl­ing, left, was an All-Sooner Ath­letic Con­fer­ence hon­or­able men­tion se­lec­tion for the Golden Ea­gles last year. JBU be­gins its season at 7 p.m. Satur­day with the Toi­let Pa­per Game against Ec­cle­sia.

Photo cour­tesy of JBU Sports In­for­ma­tion

John Brown guard Jake Cau­dle of Ben­tonville returns to the Golden Ea­gles bas­ket­ball team this fall after lead­ing JBU in scor­ing last season and earn­ing All-Sooner Ath­letic Con­fer­ence first team honors.

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