Cedarville men’s basketball team dealing with heavy graduation losses

Staff report

It didn’t matter that Cedarville University graduated six seniors from last year’s 20-win men’s basketball team. Coach Pat Estepp maintained his philosophy of facing grueling tests on the schedule for the 2013-14 season.

It starts at 7:45 p.m. Friday when Cedarville hosts Saint Joseph’s (Ind.) in the second annual Don Callan Classic. On Saturday at 5:15 p.m., the opponent is 2013 NCAA Division II qualifier Wisconsin-Parkside.

“With our youth, this schedule will once again be a challenge,” Estepp said. “So we are going to have to learn what it takes to compete at this level quickly. We have one of the best small college atmospheres in D-II, and we are excited to get to play 15 home games.”

The Jackets have won 118 games in five seasons under Estepp, including a 22-9 mark last winter in the school’s first active Division II season. The defending Great Midwest Athletic Conference champs will have their work cut out for them this year.

Cedarville not only graduated six seniors, but two other players transferred. All told, 70 percent of the offense has departed.

Marcus Reineke, a 6-foot-2 junior guard from New Knoxville, is the top returning scorer at 7.9 points per game. He sports 45 percent accuracy from beyond the arc in his career.

Brian Grant, a 6-8 senior post from Kingston, Jamaica, averaged 7.5 points and 5.4 rebounds. Jason Cuffee, a 6-4 junior guard from Poca, W.Va., who transferred in from Wright State a year ago, averaged 7.4 points.

“Obviously, we have to get points from somewhere,” Estepp said. “Our returning guys are going to have to raise their games, and some of our newcomers will have to grow up in a hurry.”

Cedarville hits the road for a pair of Division I trips as part of the Cure UCD Classic (Urea Cycle Disorder is a genetic blood disease.) The Yellow Jackets play at Tulane on Nov. 20 and at Texas State on Dec. 4.

Cedarville welcomes Findlay (Nov. 14) and Grand Valley State (Nov. 30) plus makes a trip to perennial D-II heavyweight West Liberty (W.Va.) on Dec. 17.

The G-MAC doubled in size from four to eight schools thus creating 14 league games. The list of newcomers includes eight-time NCAA champion Kentucky Wesleyan as well as four schools from West Virginia: Alderson Broaddus, Davis & Elkins, Ohio Valley, and Salem International.

“Our schedule is definitely challenging even without Tulane and Texas State,” Estepp said. “We are playing some traditional powers in our region and our team will have to be ready to go from week one.

“We are really excited to be a part of the Cure UCD Classic that allows us to play two D-I opponents. Those will be fun games for our players and our conference is going to be very difficult, too.”

Central State is also competing in the Callan Classic this weekend. The Marauders tangle with UW-Parkside at 5:30 p.m., Friday and square off with Saint Joseph’s at 3 p.m. Saturday.

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