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Ohio Northern Men’s Basketball Team saw growth and improvement during 2019-20 Season

March 27, 2020

ADA — The Ohio Northern men’s basketball team took its fair share of lumps during the 2019-20 season. But by the end of the year those lumps translated into growth, and that growth resulted in wins, and that experience that will help the Polar Bears in the coming years.

“We were young, and we were inexperienced,” ONU head coach Rich Bensman said. “The guys stayed together, played hard and practiced hard.”

Northern finished the season, owning a 9-16 overall record, which included a 5-13 mark in Ohio Athletic Conference play. ONU finished the season on a high note, winning its last three games.

Much of that strong finish was due to the youthful roster finding its collective footing. And to call the 2019-20 Polar Bears young would constitute an understatement, as nine of the 14 players on the roster were either freshmen or sophomores.

“At the end of the year, those freshmen kind of grew up, and they weren’t freshmen anymore,” Bensman said.

Freshman forward C.J. Napier (Miamisburg/Bishop Fenwick) led that youthful group. He started every game in which he played, averaging a team-best 16.3 points per game to go alongside a team-high seven rebounds per contest. Napier was named Honorable Mention All-OAC for his efforts.

Fellow freshman Landen Long (Mason) recorded a strong season from the outside. He started 21 of his 25 games played, tallying 11 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game.

Sophomore guard Brandon Waugh (Columbus/Northland), much like Northern did as a team, finished the season quite strong. He averaged 10.6 points per game, pouring in double figures in five of his last seven games, culminating with a 29-point, career-best outburst in the regular-season finale.

Waugh started all 25 games and wasn’t just an offensive threat. He led the squad in assists (2.6) and steals (1.7) per game, while adding 3.8 boards per contest.

“I think it’s encouraging with this young group of guys,” Bensman said. “They have great character. They remind me a lot of the classes we had when we were playing for the title — whether that was the regular-season title or conference tournament title — so that’s the model we are trying to repeat.”

A few veterans produced on the floor, as well. Junior forward Thomas Phillips (Kenton) added 10.4 points and 5.3 rebounds per game, while senior guard Austin Allemeier (Elida) and senior forward Caleb Bryan (Pittsburgh, Pa./Montour) chipped in 7.3 and 7.1 points per contest, respectively.

“Their work ethic is what stands out,” Bensman said. “I would see Austin in the gym often shooting to become better in that area. He was on the floor primarily for defensive purposes, and he wanted to improve some of the other areas of his game. Caleb came back better every year and played his role well.”

So while those two will depart, a lion’s share of the roster returns. And if the end of 2019-20 is a sign of things to come, the future is quite bright for the young Polar Bears.

 

 

PRESS RELEASE WRITTEN By Bud Denega; COURTESY ONU SPORTS INFORMATION

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