By Jordan Burton (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Jay Osborne is in a familiar position in his 26th season at Nixa.
Regardless of who Nixa has graduated over the last decade, including Division One players, the Eagles haven’t fallen off, posting a 220-41 record over the last nine seasons with six conference and district championships, four of which have come in a row.
All nine seasons have been 20-win campaigns.
Nixa now has the challenge of replacing seniors Christian Bundy (17.4 points, 6.7 rebounds; Missouri Southern), Seth Viebrock (10.8 points, 5.7 assists; College of the Ozarks), Austin Bracker (9.4 points, 6.5 rebounds; All-COC) and Evan Bergmann (7.9 points, 61 3-point FG).
Osborne understands how difficult it is too replace yet another solid class of seniors, but believes his incoming group is prepared to compete at a high level.
“We graduated some really good seniors, but we will replace them with exciting quality players,” said Osborne. “We will have good shooters, ball handlers, and passers, when we can get this group to work on the defensive end, we will be solid.”
Headlining the group of returners is the backcourt duo of senior Nathan Elmer (6.8 points; 37-96 3FG) and junior Braeden Combs (10.4 points).
Combs has already been apart of 48 wins at Nixa after lettering as a freshman. The 6-foot-2 guard should be one of the most efficient perimeter scorers in the Ozarks after shooting 50 percent from the field and 38 percent from 3-point range last season.
The only other returning letterwinner is 6-foot-4 senior Drew Canady, who has earned valuable reps playing with and practicing against bigs like Christian Bundy and Chase Allen.
Nixa’s rotation will be rounded out by nine players that offer quality depth and size.
Senior bigs Max Bilbrey (6’7) and Tanner Hartman (6’4), as well as wings Masen Gideon (6’2) and Jack Sanders (6’2) round out the seniors. Juniors Isaiah Engelman (6’4), Luke Roemen (6’4) and Brandon Gordon (5’11) are also battling for minutes.
Osborne also believes that freshmen Kaleb Wofford (6’2) and Jason Jones (6’4) can potentially have an immediate impact.
The success of this group will rest in their ability to build chemistry and adjust to varsity basketball.
“This group will play unselfish and will have the ability to place the team above their own stats,” said Osborne. “Getting this team to believe in each other should not be an issue.”
Nixa opens the season at home on Nov. 28 against Lebanon.
The schedule is again packed with marquee games and events like the Arvest Classic, Blue and Gold tournament and out-of-area match-ups against D-1 talent with Lee’s Summit, Blue Springs South and SLUH all on the schedule.
Osborne continues to load his schedule to challenge his kids for what is a gauntlet of a conference schedule and a potential three-game stretch in March that could see the Eagles play rival Republic for a district championship, Glendale or Ozark in Sectionals and a loaded Rock Bridge team in the Elite Eight.
Nixa Basketball’s success – 27 conference championships, 18 district titles and nine Final Fours – continues to come due to the program’s acceptance of selfless basketball.
“One of the greatest qualities our basketball program has embraced over the years is having players that understand how important their teammates are,” said Osborne. “Our teams play for something greater than themselves, they play for our school, our community, and our program. This year’s team will be able to add to the legacy of our proud basketball tradition.”