Central Christian College men’s basketball coach Tony Romero is going to miss the super smoothness of the Tigers’ all-time leading scorer Michael Gholston, the cerebral play of all-time assist leader Daniel Nwosuh, the off-the charts intensity of 1,000-career-point scorer Sam Clayborn and the instant offense off the bench from the explosive Ernest Burton.
That senior class finally graduated in May and were the impetus of a 23-9 season that fell just short of making the NAIA national tournament.
Romero has churned out four 20-plus-win seasons and for the Tiger to approach that lofty level again this year his returnees are going to have to mesh with a cadre of newcomers. He has won 158 games in eight years, just a tick under 20 a year.
The new-look Tigers open their season Thursday at Alexander Arena taking on KCAC member Kansas Wesleyan. Tipoff is 8:00.
“Last year was a great year for us, we had one of our most successful seasons,” Romero said. “But we return a solid core of upperclassmen that has been a huge part of our success the last couple of seasons. I feel this group of seniors is eager to leave their own mark on CCC basketball and prove their growth over the last few years and in the offseason.”
Because of the loss of the great senior class, Romero and his staff hit the recruiting trail hard for reinforcements, but he does have some quality back.
In 6-7 junior Jabril Osagie (he was AII Newcomer of the Year after averaging 12.2 points and 8.2 rebounds) and 6-6 senior Kendric Warren (5.3 points, 8.4 rebounds), the Tigers have an incredibly athletic presence in the paint. Add in 6-6 junior Steven Kuminga, who saw big-time minutes off the bench and averaged 6.6 points and 4.7 rebounds, the Tigers should be formidable on the front line.
Antonio Daniels, a 6-5 junior transfer, comes to Central from North Central Missouri College where he averaged 5.2 points and 4.2 rebounds.
How the guard play comes along could dictate the Tigers’ success. LaDarius Lenard, Demetrick Jordan and Cameron Martin are seniors, all three 6-1. Lenard and Jordan have been in the program for the past few years and Martin is a transfer from NCAA Division II Northeastern State in Oklahoma, where he averaged 10 points a game and could step right in and assume the reigns. Paul Ard, a 6-2 junior, is a transfer from Eastfield College in Texas where he averaged 9 points and 4.2 rebounds.
Trevor Paulus, a 6-4 transfer from Gogebic College in Wisconsin, is yet another newcomer with experience as he averaged 11 points and 4.8 rebounds.
Also on the Tigers’ varsity are 6-0 junior Colton Berg, 6-5 junior Josiah King, and a quartet of freshmen — 6-0 T.J. Williams, 6-2 Michael Arnada, 6-2 Nic Mitchell and 6-5 Jaylon Simpson.
The Tigers are back in a conference as they are first-year members of the Sooner Athletic Conference after being in the AII the last two years. The conference has produced the last two national champions and every game will be a battle.