Buffalo turned a corner last year in Coach Kyle Gawlowski’s second year as head coach. The Bison improved their win total from four wins in his first year to nine wins last year. It was the most wins in one season for the program since 2011-12.
“The players bought into our system that emphasized an unselfish approach to put their teammates in the best position for team success,” Gawlowski said. “We saw our shooting efficiency increase with better shot selection and greater ball movement, our turnovers dropped, and we had greater commitment to winning the rebounding battle.”
Last year’s strong season led to a great summer of work for the Bison.
“This summer built on those ideas. We saw a successful summer in which we won a lot of games. Most importantly guys were pushing to get in the gym every day and use the time productively to a level we have not seen in past years,” Gawlowski said.
Buffalo has a strong group of returning players this year with four of last year’s top five scorers back in the fold.
The returning group is led by senior Layton Moody. Moody led the team in scoring with 13.8 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. He was second on the team with four assists per game. His efforts earned him all-conference honors.
“Layton can affect the basketball game at every level because of his incredibly high basketball intelligence. He has a great jumper that he uses well to set up driving lanes and find open teammates. He does a great job of getting into position against bigger or faster opponents which has led to him being a positive defensive presence and great rebounder,” Gawlowski said. “I expect his numbers and effectiveness to continue to rise. Another summer of basketball has continued to add to his basketball IQ, and his time in the weight room and on the football field has made him stronger and more athletic.”
Sophomore Jamen Smith helped lead Buffalo’s turnaround on the football field this fall at quarterback. He will be a weapon on the basketball court his winter. Smith scored 11.9 points per game last year. He added in a team-high 4.6 assists and 2.1 steals to go with 4.5 rebounds per game as a freshman.
“Jamen’s outstanding athletic ability allowed him to become a threat on both ends of the court from the first game of the season. A game in which he recorded 10 points and 5 steals. Along with his athletic ability he has the ability to learn incredibly quickly. He makes corrections quickly and rarely repeats the same mistake,” Gawlowski said. “During the offseason, he has gotten even stronger and more explosive. Teams will not be able to keep him from the rim and opponents will struggle to bring the ball up against him. He has also worked hard to add a pull up jumper that he hit effectively all throughout the summer.”
Graden Ragland brings senior leadership to the court after scoring 5.8 points and 3.4 rebounds per game in 17 contests as a junior.
“Graden Ragland is a senior who came on strong in the second half of last season. He has had a great summer and preseason. He scored well in flashes last year, and we expect with more confidence that he will consistently be a top scorer. More importantly, we expect him to be a rim protector to clean up any mistakes made on the defensive end,” Gawlowski said.
Coltin Henderson will look to expand on his 9.1 point per game output from his sophomore season. He also chipped in 4 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game.
“He is a great passer who can score when called upon. Overall, he is an incredibly efficient player who could lead us in points, assists, or rebounds on a given night. We expect him to take a big step this season, especially on the defensive end as he will be one of our most physical players,” Gawlowski said.
Levi Phillips played in all 25 contests last year and also saw some time as a starter. He will be another senior leader for the Bison.
Bode Abraham and Haydon Gray will also be factors on the varsity squad this year. Gawlowski said he expects Abraham, a sophomore, to make the biggest leap of any player Buffalo’s roster.
All of this talent has Gawlowski excited for what this year could hold for Buffalo.
“We gained a lot of confidence and battled in a lot of close games (last year). Because of those battles, and a great summer, we expect to be greatly improved. The guys improved across the board, and although we may not have one player stand out with outrageous stats, we will have a deep and talented team. Because of the depth of talent and the team first mentality we have cultivated, we expect our first winning season and conference championship in a long time,” Gawlowski said.
Buffalo opens the season at the Marionville Tournament from Nov. 26 through Dec. 1.