FRANKLIN, Ind. – With the regular season on the horizon, the Franklin College men's basketball sits in a much different position than they did a year ago.
Heading into last season, the Grizzlies featured a young squad stocked with freshmen and sophomores ready to assume the bulk of the minutes. One year later, things look much different for the Grizzlies, as they return a strong nucleus of returners that gained valuable experience in 17-18. Joining that core is a strong and versatile freshman class that gives head coach Kerry Prather, now in his 36th year on the bench, a deep group that looks to take another step forward in 2018-19.
"I've been struck just how many options we have and how many different combinations of guys we can deploy on the floor," Prather noted. "What hindered us last year was a combination of inexperience and the depth that we need to play at the speed we want. This year, I think we're there. The best thing we've seen in our scrimmages is that we maintained a healthy pace all game and that should make us hard to play against."
The bulk of the familiar faces on this year's team can be found in the back court, where Franklin returns four players that either started or saw major minutes a year ago. Sharp-shooting junior guard Kale Morris averaged 10.5 points per game and shot 47 percent from behind the three-point line on his way to an Honorable Mention All-HCAC selection. He'll be joined by versatile guards Borden Kennedy, Jordan Anderson and the top returning scorer from a season ago in sophomore Sam Gutierrez.
Sophomore Ismail Jones will push for more playing time along with freshmen Colin York, Bennie Patterson, Dylan Kelly and Lukas Swan. For a team that wants to play a fast-paced game, the Grizzlies will have no shortage of options when it comes to pushing the ball on offense and locking down some of the top perimeter players in the league on defense.
"Our depth at the guard spot is going to be our biggest asset," Prather added. "I like what we're doing defensively and offensively we're playing aggressive and that's what we want. We've got some guys that have made big strides from last year to this year and a few freshmen that are going to have a chance to give us some important minutes. "
The Grizzly front court will feature a new look this year following the departure of Second Team All-HCAC center John Beineke, who led the team in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots a year ago. Sophomore Danny Goggans and junior Kyle Meyer will look to pick up the slack as the team's top returners in the post. Goggans was averaging 7.4 rebounds per game before missing the final 10 games of the season while Meyer looks to elevate his offensive game to go along with a strong skill sets on defense and on the glass.
The two are joined by a slew of newcomers in sophomore Payton Mills and freshmen Matt Krause, Isaac Combs and Travis Wilson. Each player brings a different skill set to the table that will allow the Grizzlies to throw several different looks at teams. Most importantly, the added depth allows Franklin to maintain their up-tempo style on the offensive end of the floor while not sacrificing anything on the defensive end.
"We're going to throw some different looks at teams with our post play," Prather continued. "When other aspects of the offense get off track, it's nice to be able to run your offense through the post. We feel like we have a good group of post players that will be able to chip in at both ends of the floor and on the glass. They're a younger group but it's another area we have the depth where we can play the way we want while keeping everyone fresh."
The Grizzlies have been picked to finish sixth in the HCAC by the league's coaches in this year's pre-season rankings. Franklin opens the regular season on Friday (Nov. 9) night, when they welcome Otterbein University to the Spurlock Center. Tip-off is set for 7:00 p.m.