Oct. 25—JAMESTOWN — Heading into the 2023-24 season, University of Jamestown head basketball coach Danny Neville has the unenviable task of replacing two players who combined to score almost 4,000 points in their careers. But Neville believes he has the team capable of doing it.
"Anytime you lose a good player it's tough, a great player in Mason Walters, but when you come back ... you rebound from all that stuff," Neville said. "When we look behind us, you think three straight trips to Kansas City, a lot of success in the last couple years, what do you do to continue that? I think our guys have bought in 100% to what we're doing and it's been fun watching them play."
Last year saw the graduation of point guard Marc Kjos and the graduation and transfer of forward Mason Walters. Kjos scored 1,138 points in his career, adding 465 assists and 171 steals. Walters left the program as the all-time leading scorer with 2,662 points, 1,239 rebounds, 265 assists and 66 steals.
"I think we did a good job recruiting," Neville said. "We'll have four new guys that play for us, so two of them are in the starting lineup ... Obviously, you're not gonna replace a guy like Mason and Marc, but I think we did the best job that we could to get good players to continue our success."
In replacing the duo, Neville said it is a team activity and there are multiple players on the roster that can have a claim as this year's "best player." One of the Jimmies returners who will be tasked with playing a big role this season is Will Cordes, who averaged 12.3 points per game last year.
"We've got a lot of good scorers on our team coming back this year," Cordes said. " So Mason and Marc are gone, which definitely opens up a lot of new opportunities for some of us, but we're still pretty well balanced."
The Jimmies return nine players from last year's roster and brought in 15 players. Some of the players that Neville said he is expecting big things out of are Cordes, Cole Woodford, Colby Vazquez, Reid Gastner, Silas Benion, Antonio Chandler, Jimmy Llinas, Spencer Barr and Covy Kelly.
"We think we have a lot of weapons and we're pretty deep," Neville said. "We're deeper than we have been in the past. "
This year, Cordes is one of three captains alongside Woodford and Christian Lietz.
"It means a lot," Cordes said. "It's exciting. I think it's a big responsibility, you have a lot of responsibility to be a good leader on the team, a good teammate. But, it's something I want to embrace and something I'm looking forward to. I've got Christian and Cole with me too, which is really fun. Those are two of my closest friends, so I think it'll be a great experience for us."
Last season, the Jimmies went 27-7, making it to the Sweet 16 for the third time in the last five years. The Jimmies' season ended with a 61-51 loss to Indiana Tech.
"It was tough," Cordes said. "It's always hard when you go out your last game losing but definitely a learning experience too. We're not used to some of the teams that we get to see in Kansas City. It was definitely tough but definitely something to learn from and take into this season."
The Jimmies have a new lead assistant this year after the departure of Tyler Peterson, although Taylor Jones is a familiar face to some on the team.
"He's (Jones) pretty similar to coach P (Peterson) honestly, just younger guys who are great coaches, very smart and like to have a lot of fun too, easy to talk to and get along with," Cordes said. "It wasn't too hard, Coach Jones is awesome, he works really hard, he's been super personable with all the guys. It's been easy to get to know him well and I think all the guys like him a lot."
The Jimmies open their season at 1 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 27, when they take on Rocky Mountain College.
The Jimmies are being picked to finish fourth in the GPAC Preseason poll, which Neville said doesn't concern his team. Due to the fact that this is the team's last year in the conference, Neville said his team is determined to win the conference title.
"I think it'll be fun and exciting," Neville said. "In the back of our minds, it's our last go around with some of those programs probably so you're gonna get our best."