By Jordan Burton (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Jay Osborne is entering his 31st season as a head coach, a career that has included 601 wins.
And, with four starters (full or part-time) returning, Nixa will likely add several more wins to that total this winter.
Leading the way for the Eagles will be the offensively explosive backcourt duo of senior Josh Mason and junior Kaleb Wofford.
Mason exploded last year with a breakout season, averaging 14.4 points and 2.5 assists. He’s currently receiving Division Two offers and interest.
Wofford had a monster freshman campaign, but injuries limited his sophomore season. After a strong summer, he’ll look to bounce back and reestablish himself as one of the best shooters in Missouri.
“Josh is a creator that can get his own shot. We’re going to have him score for us and he’s capable of doing that. Kaleb has a great summer. I was very impressed by his attitude. He works so hard. We’re excited about his junior year.”
Senior Evann Long will again be a mainstay in the backcourt after a strong junior season.
Senior 6-foot-7 forward Tanner Collard adds length and a paint presence, while 6-foot-5 junior Jason Jones (5.8 points, 4.9 rebounds) will again be a matchup problem with his length and versatility.
“Regardless of the level, freshmen and sophomores are going to struggle at times,” said Osborne. “Jason is experienced and has gotten bigger and stronger. He’s continued that work through the fall.”
Senior 6-foot-4 forward Aaron Engleman and 6-foot-6 sophomore Colten Berry will figure into the frontcourt rotation as well.
Junior TJ Sorgenfrei and freshman Kael Combs will find time in the backcourt.
Combs, at 6-foot-3, may be ready to contribute at a high level immediately.
For Osborne, this winter has a bit of a different feel.
While the Hall of Fame coach has nothing left to prove on the court, the Eagles have gone back-to-back seasons without a conference or district title, as well as 20 wins.
That is a rarity for Nixa Basketball.
After losing nine games by a total of 19 points last year, Osborne is hopeful that experience will be a growing one, allowing his group to put teams away this season.
“We must become a tougher and more physical team this season,” said Osborne. “We will need to finish games strong; we let too many slip away in the fourth quarter. I am confident that our hard work in the weight room, our conditioning, and mental toughness will pay off for us this season. We have a bunch of gym rats that love the game of basketball. We have a passion for the game. I’m excited about this group.”
Nixa will open the 2019-20 season on Dec. 8 against St. Elizabeth.