Both the Bethel College men’s and women’s basketball coaches expressed a lot of optimism Tuesday during the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference media day.
The media day was held in a virtual format on the conference’s Facebook page. The media and coaches polls weren’t released until Wednesday morning, past the Kansan’s print deadline.
The Bethel women were 16-15 last year, 12-12 in the KCAC to tie for sixth. The Threshers fell to Sterling 68-57 in the first round of the conference postseason tournament.
Drew Johnson begins his fourth season as the Thresher coach. He is 48-43.
"One of the main questions that has been around has been about COVID," Johnson said. "The way we’ve tried to present it is we’re working hard to present the best and safest opportunity for our players and student-athletes. It sounds like a lot of people have been sporadic. We’ve had good stretches and stretches where we haven’t had everybody. We’re hoping as we get in this season, some of this will be behind us."
Bethel loses assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Kent Packard. He took a position as head girls coach at Meade High School in southwest Kansas. Josh Burt will take over as recruiting coordinator.
Former Bethel player Kelsey Potter has been added to the staff.
Nichole (Ohlde) Johnson returns as associate head coach.
The Threshers are led by Abby Schmidt, who averaged 15.6 points, 14.0 rebounds and 3.3 blocked shots per game. She already has career school records for rebounds and blocked shots. Schmidt is the two-time KCAC Defensive Player of the Year and was an NAIA All-American last season.
"We’re excited about her ending her career on a high note," Drew Johnson said. "What we’re calling a victory lap. We’re excited to see how she puts it all together."
Alex Bearup averaged 12.3 points and 8.6 rebounds a game, despite playing just 17 games because of injury.
Other returning starters include Josie Calzonetti and Kendall Michalski.
"We are finally at a point where I feel the program is sustainable," Drew Johnson said. "We’re not trying to bring in freshmen who have to play or start. The last two years, we’ve started two freshmen. We return 90 percent of our minutes and 85 percent of our scoring. We’re looking forward to having older players in our program. We’ve been very young. We have nine juniors and a couple of seniors who will impact the game."
Top newcomers include junior Jasmina Jones of Lahti Finland, a transfer from Cloud County Community College; and sophomore Zayda Perez, a transfer from Butler Community College, which won the regional title last year.
Bethel has 15 freshmen on the roster, possibly a school record. Bethel has a roster listed at 33 players, also a possible record.
"We think our freshmen are talented," Drew Johnson said. "We’ve been a program that has recruited freshmen hard. We’re ready to find out who’s ready to go, and it’s also nice to know we have a lot of returners coming back. … This is the deepest we’ve been. We’re going to play tough. We’re going to play fast. The key for us is staying hungry."
The Bethel men were 20-12 last season, 14-10 in KCAC play. The Threshers finished seventh in the conference last season, beating Southwestern 67-66 in the first round of the conference tournament, but falling in the semifinals to Oklahoma Wesleyan 65-62. OWU eventually won the tournament and won its first game in the NAIA Division II tournament, but the remainder of the tournament was canceled.
Jason Artaz begins his third season as the Threshers’ head coach. He is 35-27 as a head coach.
"Every coach is going to say how excited they are for the season, and we’re no different," Artaz said. "We bring back Jaylon Scott, the defensive player of the year. Jaylon had a very, very good summer, working on his offensive game. He’s really extended his range as a shooter. I look for a big step for him this year as a player overall."
Scott averaged 13.3 points, 11.8 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game, . Clifford Byrd II averaged 7.7 points and 3.1 rebounds a game.
Other top returnees include Tavaughn Flowers, Scott Garriga and Jordan Neely.
Top newcomers include junior Bryant Mocaby, a Derby grad who transferred from NCAA Division I Northern Kentucky; Adam Gouro, who transferred from Murray State College (Okla.); and junior Nathaniel Schaffer, a transfer from NCAA Division II Southern Nazarene.
"I think our freshman class is something we’re really excited about internally," Artaz said. "We some local guys in Nick Bonner from Derby, Harper Jonas from Andover. Both of those guys have really played well. Nick is about as tough as they come, coming from a really good program. Jalyn Todd is really athletic and explosive. We have the Richardson twins (Jalyn and Jared) from the Dallas area, that could possibly factor in for us.
"As we gel and get things figured out, we have a lot of looks we can put on the floor and be a little bit different, depending on match-ups."
The Bethel women are scheduled to open the season Oct. 27 at Hastings. The men are scheduled to open the season Nov. 4 at home against Central Methodist.