Last season, the Taylor men’s basketball team finished a disappointing 9-21, a record that they are confident to improve on this upcoming season.
Despite the team not having the success they wanted, there were still highlights. Silent Night returned with over 2,000 fans packing Odle Arena to watch a 79-75 win over Lincoln Christian. Junior Kaden Fuhrmann led the way with 34 points. Toward the end of the season, Taylor nearly upset rival Indiana Wesleyan at home 79-72 who was then ranked no. 3 in the nation.
The good news is that the Trojans return nearly every starter except for Aaron Hahn who played a key role last season.
Senior Jason Hubbard returns for a fifth year, and he was also voted preseason All-Crossroads League, an award given to only 11 players in the conference. Last season, he scored 23 points per game, leading the conference, and gathered 9.1 rebounds per game.
“I was extremely thankful for last year, while it didn’t go the way that we wanted to,” Hubbard said. “I felt like it set us up well for this season.”
Other returners include Fuhrmann who is working on being more consistent this year, senior Jeff Clayton, juniors Gavin Yoon and Grant Niehaus and sophomore Jackson Lewis who will play a key role on the court.
While the team looks similar, a total of seven new faces will join the returners this year with an emphasis on size. Four of the seven newcomers are 6’6 and above, something that will continue helping them on defense. Junior transfer from Ashland, Anton Webb, is now the tallest player on the team at 6’8 and is joined by freshmen Wes Hunt, Nate Paarlberg and Ben Michel who are 6’7, 6’6 and 6’6 respectively. Three freshman guards also join the team, John McLimore, Carson Miller and Jackson Ullom.
“It’s great for practice and guys being conditioned by habit going against length, and their shot being altered and having to make good decisions in the paint,” head coach Josh Andrews said about the importance of the big freshmen.
Webb was a three-time All-Conference player at his high school, Dayton Christian, but did not see much playing time at Ashland. Hunt is from Peoria Christian where he holds the school record for blocks at 130. Paarlberg is from Franklin in Ohio where he was a two-time All-Conference player at his school. Michel went to South Oldham in Crestwood, Kentucky where he was a two-time All-Region player. McLimore went to Heritage Christian and was named the school’s male athlete of the year this past school year. Miller went to Bremen where he was recognized as a top 60 player according to Hoosier Basketball Magazine. Ullom went to Monroe Central where he was recognized on the IBCA Senior All-State team.
In terms of playing style, the offense will look different this season. It will be paced much quicker compared to last year. Defensively, the team was solid last season, something that will only get better with the size of the newcomers. With the new changes to the playing style, the team looks to place at least top four in the Crossroads League and make the NAIA National Tournament, a feat that hasn’t been achieved since the 2016-17 season.
“We plan on being more high octane this year, so playing faster, we kind of played in a set offense last year,” Fuhrmann said.
Competition wise, it does not get much better than the Crossroads League. Six teams from the conference made the NAIA National Tournament last season: Indiana Wesleyan, Marian, Grace, Huntington, Saint Francis and Mount Vernon Nazarene. This shows the Trojans will have plenty of opportunities to play competition that they may face in the tournament.
Before the end of the first semester, the team will play four of those teams that made the tournament. No. 14 Marian on Nov. 19, no. 5 Indiana Wesleyan on Nov. 22, at Huntington on Nov. 30 and no. 8 Grace on Dec. 10. Arguably the biggest game of the season, the annual Ivanhoe’s Silent Night game, will be Dec. 9 against Miami-Middletown.
The next chances to catch the Trojan men’s basketball team in Odle Arena will be Nov. 2 against Aquinas and Nov. 4 against West Virginia Tech.