Buffalo struggled through a four-win season last year, but the players laid a foundation that second-year head coach Kyle Gawlowski hopes to build off of this season.
“Taking over a program that had seen limited success presented a lot of challenges. We had a good group of players, but a lot of bad habits. Throughout the course of the season, it was exciting to see the guys put in the work to break those habits. We grew a lot as a team, I grew a lot as a coach, and we have put ourselves on the right path for success,” Gawlowski said.
A big reason for optimism is that last year’s team was young and returns four of its five leading scorers that gained valuable experience last season.
“Returning our leading scorers and several other players with varsity experience will allow us to seamlessly build on the improvements made last year,” Gawlowski said. “We lost a few close games in the final minutes of games last year that taught us a lot. With those lessons learned, we expect to be more successful in those familiar situations.”
Returning Co-Captains senior Kyle Cooley and junior Layton Moody will again be tabbed for leadership on the court. Moody led the team in points per game with 8.9 along with rebounds (3.8), assists (2.6) and steals (1.3). Cooley was just behind him at 8.2 points per game to go with 2.8 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1 steal per contest.
“They are some of our more talented players and harder workers that will again serve as vocal leaders on and off the court,” Gawlowski said. “Layton often initiates our offense and was our most consistent offensive player. Kyle was our defensive leader, often taking the other team’s best player and playing the toughest part of our zone defense.”
Senior Hayden Miller is back to full strength. He was recovering from an ACL tear last season, so he started to play to his full ability toward the end of the season. He is expected to be the leading post scorer and rim protector after averaging 5.6 points and 3.6 rebounds per game last season.
Sophomore Coltin Henderson worked his way into the starting lineup by the end of last season. He will be a big piece of the offense after shooting 48% from the field as a freshman on his way to averaging 5.1 points per game.
Returning lettermen in seniors Wyatt Darnell and Jared Gentry along with junior Levi Phillips will also be working for playing time.
Two newcomers are junior Graden Ragland and freshman Jamen Smith. Ragland is a 6-foot-7 post who played on junior varsity last season. Smith is a freshman that Gawlowski described as an “exceptional athlete with the speed to compete at the varsity level”.
Gawlowski has big goals for his team with all the experience back in his second season.
“We will have a deep team with a lot of players returning and a couple interesting pieces joining us. If we continue to make the same progress we have shown through last season and this summer, we are expecting the program’s best season in a recent years. My expectations are to send this year’s senior class with the first double digit winning season of their careers,” Gawlowski said.
Buffalo opens the season Nov. 27 through Dec. 2 at the Marionville Tournament.