August 28, 2014

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College basketball: Oberlin men’s basketball roster filled with variety

A quick look at Oberlin Col­lege’s men’s basketball roster reveals something about the program.

There is not a player on the roster from Ohio or the same high school. They have players from as close as Chicago and as far away as San Francisco and Boulder, Colo. With the varying backgrounds, there should be a difference in playing styles.

“Sometimes it’s a challenge because you’re dealing with dif­ferent levels of play and differ­ent high school programs from different regions,” said Oberlin coach Isaiah Cavaco, now in his fifth season. “Somebody may be good on paper, but you bring him in and he hasn’t seen this type of competition.

“Academically, we’re the best undergraduate education in the state of Ohio — we have a lot of the hardest requirements possible. We have to reach out­side of just the state or just the region. I think the nice part is the team is really, really close. I think they have great relation­ships with one another. It’s taken some time to develop those relationships, but because these guys all come from out of state to go to school really makes them tight and makes them bond.”

Recruiting out of the region has given the Yeomen coaches a chance to build the program. In four seasons as coach, Cavaco has won 21 games. His two predecessors, Frank Dobbs and Mike Cavey, combined for a 22-127 record in six seasons.

“It’s a more skilled team — it’s a more mentally focused team than I’ve had in the past,” Cavaco said. “Physically we’re a bit undersized, but we seem to make up for that in the way we play. I think game-planning will be a lot more important. We’ve got guys who are a lot more competitive than in years past.

“The one big change from the teams that I’ve coached is this current team compares themselves to the rest of the league as opposed to compar­ing themselves to people just in the Oberlin circle. It’s not good enough to just be the best on campus. It’s impor­tant to be the best in the league. That’s the standard.”

It starts with getting players to produce on a consistent basis.

Sophomore Andrew Fox, a 6-foot-3, 205-pound guard/forward from Tempe, Ariz., averaged 15 points a game and grabbed a team­leading 158 rebounds last sea­son. He was the only Yeomen to start all 25 games and con­nected on nearly 53 percent of his shots from the field.

Junior point guard Josh Mer­ritt, a 5-8 point guard, aver­aged 11.1 points and dished out a team-high 76 assists.

“(Fox) was our leading scorer and rebounder as a freshman, so he’s obviously going to take on an even big­ger role, if that’s possible,” Cavaco said. “Josh Merritt, he’s been our starter since he got to campus. Those guys are the main leaders on the court. “In terms of a football anal­ogy, we’re going to be a time­of- possession team. We want to speed people up and get a few easy shots in transition, but we’re definitely not going to be in a hurry. I think every­body that’s on the floor can handle the ball pretty well. If we minimize our turnovers, we’ll be pretty tough to beat.”

The Yeomen will put that theory to work against Divi­sion I Bryant University later this season. After non-confer­ence games with Westminster, Hilbert, Earlham and Waynes­burg, Oberlin begins North Coast Athletic Conference play Dec. 1 at home against Allegheny.

Then they alternate NCAC and non-conference games, and will face perennial power­house Wittenberg before head­ing to Wooster, the league’s six­time defending champion, after the holiday break.

Contact Matt Florjancic at 329-7135 or ctsports@chroniclet.com.