The College of the Ozarks Bobcats head into the 2015-2016 season looking to build on last year’s success.  Coach Steve Shepherd, in his 14th season with the Bobcats, is pleased with the developing chemistry of his team, which includes six returners and seven new additions.

The Bobcats achieved a Midlands Collegiate Athletic Conference Co-Championship and another NAIA Division II National Tournament appearance in 2014-15, while compiling a 24-8 overall record, but they are hungry for more. After losing three seniors to graduation, the Cats will rely heavily on production from seniors Skyler Frazier and Ethan Murray, several experienced juniors, and an impressive group of underclassmen.

Frazier and Murray, both in their fourth season with the Bobcats, were key contributors last season and are expected to lead the charge for the Cats this season. Frazier, a 6’5” forward, brought solid shooting and rebounding to the team as the 6th man last season. His skills around the basket and competitive nature will provide him with the opportunity to have a momentous senior campaign. Coach Shepherd praised Frazier’s “leadership and ability to make plays when we need them.” Murray, a returning starter from last season, looks to build on his breakout junior season, where he ranked 6th in NAIA D-II in 3-Point Field Goals Made per Game (3.2) and 10th in Total 3-Point Field Goals Made (97). Ethan’s athleticism, mid-range shot, and lethal three-point shooting will ignite the Bobcat’s offense. Shepherd noted, “Ethan has an outstanding work ethic and may be one of the best shooters we’ve ever had.”

The talented junior class includes three returning players and a transfer, who also look to have an impact on the Bobcats’ success. Guard Cameron Paschke, in his 3rd year as a contributing player, looks to use his speed, ball handling, and passing to effectively run the point guard position. Last season, Paschke led the team in free throw percentage (109/130, .838), was 2nd on the team in steals (39), and averaged 4 assists per game. Joe Young, also a guard, is eager to build on the experience he’s gained over the last two seasons. While he is known for his defense and will likely be assigned to guarding the opponent’s best player, he is also capable of driving hard and finishing at the basket. Young makes a lot of hustle plays that aren’t apparent in the stats, and brings great rebounding skills to the Cats, as evidenced by closing last season as the team’s 2nd leading rebounder. Another solid returner is guard Chandler Hall, who has seen valuable minutes on the court over the past two seasons. Hall’s intelligence, intense energy and good screen setting definitely contribute to the team’s success.  New to the Bobcats this season is center Kiefer Starbird, a transfer who played at Truman State. Standing at 6’10, skilled around the basket, and able to finish in a variety of ways, Starbird is expected to be a threat at both ends of the court.

Guard Canyon Smith is the lone sophomore, who saw playing time in 25 games last season. Smith has confidence and poise on the court, possesses good defensive abilities, and will stretch the defense with his shooting range.

This year’s recruiting class landed six freshmen on the Bobcats’ roster. Heath Carmichael, a 6’3 guard (Ozark, Mo.), brings good three-point shooting and toughness to the team. He will gain valuable experience this season, and looks poised to be an immediate contributor on both sides of the ball. Logan Miller, a 6’3 guard (Maize, Kan.), brings a high basketball IQ alongside good passing and shooting skills to the team. Ethan Davidson, a 6’5 forward (Hollister, Mo.), looks to bring athleticism and a solid mid-range shot to the Cats.  Markyse Goad, a 6’3 guard from Blue Eye, MO, is a good shooter who also possesses the ability to pass and rebound well. Luke Daniels, a 6’4 forward (Mountain View, Mo.), has already established himself as a “scrappy” player, who plays hard, can finish at the basket, and hauls in rebounds. Rounding out the freshman class is Ryan Burland, a 6’6 forward (Springfield, Mo.), who will provide inside depth and good shooting while developing as a post player.

Coach Shepherd has a great nucleus of returners that will be counted on heavily to produce big-time plays. The coaching staff anticipates a solid defensive team this year, and having size in the post to contest shots –something the Bobcats haven’t recently possessed – will be advantageous. This year’s squad has a good balance of inside and outside players with the ability to score from anywhere on the court. Coach Shepherd comments, “Our team should be very good on the perimeter this year.  Execution will be key, and teamwork will be one of our strengths. The guys enjoy playing together, and we have a very unselfish group.  Each player accepting his role will be critical to our success.”

We are looking forward to another great season of Bobcats’ basketball!

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