A new era in the Olivet College men's basketball program is set to start in 2019-20. Sam Hargraves becomes the seventh head coach to lead the Comets since 1967.
In addition to Hargraves being a new face leading the program, there will be plenty of new faces on the court for Olivet. Of the 18 players on the varsity roster, only four saw action in 15 or more games during the 2018-19 season and those four combined to play 565 minutes and score 153 points.
Those four returnees are senior Keyon Rainey, juniors Spencer Naffziger and Delbert Redfield, and sophomore Cameron Ramos. Rainey had the most playing time at 273 minutes and scored 53 points. Redfield played in 19 games and 16 of his 20 baskets were from behind the three-point arc. Ramos and Naffziger saw action in 16 and 15 games, respectively.
Seniors Nathaniel Colon, Ryan Franklin and Jackson Patton, junior Deondre Dobbins and sophomore Christopher Long were part of the Olivet program last year. None of the five saw significant playing time in varsity games, with three of them playing only in junior varsity games.
The remaining nine players on this year's team are new to the program. Six of the nine have transferred to Olivet for their final two seasons of collegiate basketball, and the other three are true freshmen. The transfers are Colin Carter (Mid Michigan Community College), Jared Long (Alma College), Chris Martin (Oakland Community College), Shawn Pardee (Mott Community College), Thorne Stephens (Clark State Community College) and Eddie Thigpen (Mott Community College). The freshmen are Britton Angell, Drew Moore and Noah Wiswary.
Olivet opens the 2019-20 season next Friday, Nov. 18, at the Defiance (Ohio) College Purple & Gold Tournament. The Comets face Great Lakes Christian College in their first game at 7 p.m. The other first-round game features the host Yellow Jackets versus Spalding (Ky.) University. The losers will face each other Saturday at 3 p.m., and the winners will then face off in the championship game after the conclusion of the consolation game at approximately 5 p.m.
Olivet plays its first six games on the road. The Comets' home-opener is Wednesday, Dec. 18, against Wilmington (Ohio) University. Tip time is 12 p.m. In the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) preseason coaches' poll, Olivet was picked to finish seventh. The Comets' first league contest is Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020, on the road at Hope College.
"I think getting picked seventh is too high," joked Hargraves. "Obviously with the roster turnover and all the new faces, it is going to take some time to put a real team together. I do think we have some nice pieces, and hopefully we can continue to improve. My goal is for us to be a better team in February than we are right now."