BRIDGEWATER, Va. – The Bridgewater College Eagles will tip off their season Tuesday evening with an exhibition game at Division I Elon. The Eagles are still a relatively young team, but they are a team with a lot of game experience.
Bridgewater returns 10 players to the hardwood this season that averaged playing at least 10 minutes per game a season ago. Despite the returning experience, the Eagles are still a youthful bunch. There is only one senior on the roster, Brian Lynch, and he is a transfer who wasn't on the team a year ago.
"We still have a bunch of youngsters who are sophomores and juniors, but they have been battle tested," head coach Don Burgess said. "We were plagued with injuries last year, but that meant a lot of different guys got quality minutes."
Thomas brings a solid all-around game to court. He averaged 10. 6 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game during his sophomore campaign. Thomas recorded the only triple-double in the conference a year ago when he dropped 17 points, grabbed 22 boards and dished out 10 assists in a game at Lynchburg College.
Adams and Reddick were two of the most productive freshmen in the ODAC a year ago. Adams averaged 10.2 points per game while Reddick averaged 9.6 points and 5.1 rebounds per game.
"We expect those three guys to step up and score consistently this season," Burgess said.
Tavis Stapleton, another junior guard who averaged just more than five points per game, could give the Eagles another reliable scoring threat from the perimeter. "Tavis has really been playing well in our practices and scrimmages," Burgess said. "He's another player capable of scoring the basketball."
Lynch, a transfer from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, and junior Kenneth Waugh give the Eagles a pair of long-range marksmen. "B-Lynch and Waugh, we're going to need them to hit some threes and stretch the defense," Burgess said.
"We have a lot of quickness on the perimeter," said Burgess. "Those sophomores got some quality minutes last year and Zach Hunter has come in and his floor general skills really stand out for a freshman."
While there are many combinations for Burgess to utilize on the perimeter, the BC coach knows he will need production in the paint. Along with Reddick, juniors Daniel McClain and David Larson will provide inside scoring and rebounding.
McClain and Larson were both sidelined for a big part of the 2011-12 season. McClain went down early with a season-ending knee injury while Larson was sidelined late in the season with a blood clot.
"I think Boomer (McClain) is close to 100 percent," Burgess said. "Having him back on the court brings a sense of calm to the team. He's one of our leaders and he can score down on the block. I've really been pleased with how Larson has come back. He's really playing well. He's one of those guys who does a lot of the little things that go unnoticed."
Also expected to log minutes up front are big men Romie Powell and Josh Irwin along with Kordero Thompson, Kyle VanOrden and Kyle Welty. Thompson made a positive impact as a freshman during the 2009-10 season, but has been away from the program for the past two years.
"Romie and Josh continue to get better and give us some size in the post," Burgess said. "Kord is going to give you something every night. He brings some toughness to the team. Kyle is an energy guy. He comes off the bench and plays hard at both ends of the court. Pistol (Welty) is a guy we might go to off the bench for offense. He's a good shooter with good size."
A pair of promising freshmen, 6-foot-8 forward Jerome Ziv and guard Sammy Tyson have been slowed by injuries during the preseason and will work their way back as the season progresses. Newcomers Justin Reife, James Coleman and Jelani Saunders will also vie for time as they learn the system.
Following the exhibition contest the Eagles open their regular season on Nov. 16 at the EMU Tip-Off Classic. The Eagles meet Ferrum College on Friday and then play Elizabethtown on Saturday.
Burgess is anxious to get the season started.
"We're looking forward to seeing how this group comes together," he said. "We have a chance to be a good basketball team. We're athletic and we should be a very deep team. The key for us will be consistency. We play in a league where there are no nights off. Top to bottom, the ODAC is one of the toughest conferences in the country. We need to consistently bring a high level of intensity to the court so we maximize our quickness and athleticism to the fullest."