FRANKLIN – On the eve of the 2017-18 season opener, there's a buzz surrounding the Franklin College men's basketball team. With a young, skilled class of newcomers, the Grizzlies have reason to be optimistic as they get set to embark on a new campaign.
In order to get to this point, the Grizzlies had to make some changes in the offseason and that began on the recruiting trail. Head coach Kerry Prather and the FC coaching staff cast a wide net when looking for the newest Grizzlies, and the result was a 12-player recruiting class that checks off a lot of the boxes the FC staff was looking for in building this year's installment of the Grizzlies.
"The whole process has been really exciting and a real shot in the arm for our program," Prather said. "To play the game we want to play, we need to be able to have plenty of bodies that will help us overcome injuries and foul trouble without missing a beat. The last few years, we haven't had the depth that we want. The way we recruited this past offseason, that no longer feels like the case."
The list of newcomers brings plenty of size and athleticism that will help in all facets of the game. The back court adds transfers Atticus Felling and Cameron King, along with freshmen Sam Gutierrez, Ismail Jones, Gavin Collier, Garrett Burkhart and Brandon Eades. Meanwhile, the FC front court loaded up on bodies by adding freshmen Danny Goggans, Nathan Mills, Braxton Robertson, Hunter DeHaven, and Paul Minor Jr.
With so many new bodies and diverse skill sets on the floor, the Grizzlies will be able to throw several different looks at opponents in 2017-18. The challenge for the Franklin coaching staff is being able to get the newcomers to get used to the college game, and to find out what combinations give the Grizzlies the best chance for success.
"For us, it's a double-edged sword," Prather added. "We have had the challenge of not only getting freshmen to learn how to adjust to the college game but we have also had the chance to play lots of them together. With every combination, there's a different set of dynamics that come with what each player brings in terms of their skill set. The only way to figure out the right combinations is through reps."
The Franklin faithful will have a few familiar faces greeting them inside the Spurlock Center this year, and the six returners will play a key role in the Grizzlies' success. Center John Beineke, the team's lone senior, is the only returner back from last year's squad. He'll be joined by sophomores Kyle Meyer, Borden Kennedy, Kale Morris, Jordan Anderson and Gunnar Dittrich, who will all look to earn increased minutes.
One of the biggest responsibilities for the six veterans is helping their new teammates get acclimated to the rigors of a college basketball season. With so many new bodies on the floor in practice, the Grizzly veterans have welcomed the task of helping their new teammates get accustomed to the college game, something that was done for them once upon a time.
"We've always had a tradition of the older guys helping along our young guys," Prather continued. "We have guys that can explain the offense, proper shot selection and passing selection, it's like having four or five more coaches out there. When you're trying to implement that many new bodies, you want to have guys that can set a proper example."
The young Grizzlies will be tested on Wednesday night, Nov. 15, when they open the regular season on the road against DePauw University. Tipoff from Greencastle, Ind. is set for 7:30 p.m.