The Oglethorpe men's basketball team will start a new era this year, as it takes part in the inaugural season of the Southern Athletic Association (SAA). The Petrels return four starters from last year's team that went 11-14 and 6-10 in conference play in their final season with the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC), and Head Coach Philip Ponder likes the look of experience on his roster. "Last year, we returned only two players who had even played significant minutes, let alone started. This season, we have four returning starters and have a much deeper team overall." The Petrels will have to replace Andrew Steioff, their leading scorer and rebounder from last season, but are in a much better position to do that this season than they were to replace everybody who left going into last season.
The Petrels look to be very deep and athletic at the guard position. Seniors Christian Molinet (8.6 PPG, 46% FG, 4.2 APG, 1.7 SPG), Alec Pitts (11.9 PPG, 37% 3-PT, 92% FT, 4.3 RPG, 2.7 APG and 1.8 SPG)and Branden Jovaag (8.4 PPG, 39% 3-PT, 1.4 SPG) are all starters from last year's team who will be returning. Sophomore Alex Davis (4.4 PPG, 44% FG) and junior Tyler Courson (2.4 PPG, 43% FG) both saw significant minutes last season and will return, as well. Junior Aaron Del Rosario and sophomore Sean Overstreet also return, and should help to provide depth off the bench for the team, as will a slew of incoming freshman guards. Cole Romaguera, Drew Patrick, Joseph Marco and MJ Bryant will all look to earn a spot in the rotation for the Petrels.
In the frontcourt, the Petrels return senior forward Sam Purdy (7.5 PPG, 45% FG, 45% 3-PT, 1.6 APG), who was a starter on last year's team. They also return several post contributors. Senior Price Hamilton and sophomores Chad Porterfield and Jordan Kinney all look to increase their roles this season, as the Petrels look for ways to replace Steioff's production. He will be joined in that regard by freshman Victor Rohlfs, who hails from Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
The Petrels will look to play a very up-tempo style of basketball this season, perhaps even more so than years passed. With the young squad last season, Coach Ponder was not able to play as fast as he typically likes. Despite that, the Petrels still finished fourth in the league in scoring and third in steals, which speaks to how effective they might be when they go back to a more up-tempo style this season. "Without a doubt, last season was the slowest tempo we've played at during my time as head coach," says Ponder. "But this year, with much more experience in the backcourt, we'll be going back to our up-tempo style that we had in previous years. Our goal will be to take teams out of their comfort zone by applying pressure with our experienced guards, and getting steals and open shots out of that."
The new SAA league schedule should provide a challenge for the Stormy Petrels. It features three teams that finished with at least 18 wins last season (Birmingham-Southern, Rhodes and Centre). Birmingham-Southern finished 25-3 and advanced to the NCAA Tournament last season, and enters the season 12th in the nation according to the D3hoops.com preseason Top 25 poll. "Generally speaking, the best teams in the SCAC were with us in the East Division, and all of those teams are now also in the SAA," said Ponder. "So it's going to be a challenging league to compete in year-in and year-out, but we're very much looking forward to that challenge."