By Denise Tucker
There is nowhere to go but up this season for the Buffalo Bison, and a former Bison is hoping to be the one to turn things around.
“This will be my first year as a head coach, after spending the past three years as an assistant to Adam Thornhill in Lebanon,” said first-year head coach and 2009 Buffalo High School graduate Kyle Gawlowski. “I am excited to be able to come and take over the program I spent four great years playing in.”
The Bison had a rough go in 2015-16 with a 1-23 finish overall and an 0-6 mark in the Central Ozark Conference-Small Division.
“We have not had much success the past few years, so this season is going to be about getting better in all areas of the game,” Gawlowski said. “Our schedule is loaded with great teams, and we have a lot of work to do if we want to get to where we want to be.”
The good news for Buffalo is that it didn’t lose any players from last season to graduation, although no returning player has more than one year of varsity experience.
“We will be able to return all of our varsity letterman from a year ago and a few additional players who were able to get some varsity experience,” Gawlowski said. “Because we have so many players with experience returning, there is an open competition for all spots. Each player is going to have to earn every second on the court.”
The Bison have five seniors returning, led by 6-1 forward Noah Gentry. He averaged 8.6 points per game, 4.5 rebounds and 1.1 assists as a junior. Gentry is joined by 6-1 guard Ben Smith, 6-1 forward James Smith, 5-11 guard Travis Clemmons and 6-1 forward Austin Starkey in the senior class.
Because of injuries and experimenting with different lineups last season, there were a number of different starters. Those returning for Buffalo include 6-5 junior center Hayden Miller, who averaged 7.7 points and 4.8 rebounds per game last year, 6-4 junior forward Jared Gentry, 6-1 junior forward Kyle Cooley, 5-11 sophomore guard Layton Moody and 5-9 sophomore guard Haydon Gray.
The Bison have a group of sophomores hoping to see some action on the court this season, including 5-10 guard Levi Phillips, 6-5 center Graden Ragland, 5-10 guard Bradley Hosiner and 5-10 guard Wyatt Darnell.
“I have been very happy with the number of players getting in the gym and the hard work we have put in throughout the summer and off-season,” Gawlowski said. “These guys want to get better and are proving it every time they step on the court.
“As long as we keep up this attitude and level of work, we are going to see good things start to happen.”