Although practice won’t begin until the end of September, head coach for Shawnee State men’s basketball team Delano Thomas and his staff have been adding pieces to their roster since the end of their season. This year’s team will feature six unfamiliar faces for a team looking to improve on a 14-17 record last season. “We’re expecting to take it one game at a time” said Thomas, “If we have the mindset of taking it one game at a time, I believe we can have a really successful season. We have all the pieces on peg right now, it’s just all about us coming together as a family and as a team. We have to build chemistry, learn how to trust, and we have to go through some things”.
One of the new players for Shawnee this year is Mike Hubbert, a 6’5 point guard who graduated from Greenup County High School in 2017. In high school, Hubbert was a two-time 63rd All-District player, and was also a member of the All-16th Region team during his senior year. “He (Hubbert) does a very good job of seeing the floor” said Thomas, “His ability to create his own shot as well as being unselfish means he is going to create a lot of matchup problems for other teams”. Another new player for this year’s team is Morehead State University transfer Austin Crawford. Crawford, a 6’2 wing, played high school basketball for Bracken County High School in Kentucky, where he is the school’s all time leading scorer with over 3,000 points and 1,000 rebounds. At Morehead State, Crawford played in nine games during his freshman season as he looks to bring division one basketball experience to Shawnee’s team. Thomas believes that Crawford’s experience playing division one basketball helped him become a better player. “I think for him (Crawford) it helped to have one year of being seasoned, practicing at the D1 level” Thomas said, “Our practices will be very similar to the D1 level, how structured it is.
Austin was a prolific scorer in high school. Not only can he score, but he can also rebound the ball very well”.
Another of the six players Shawnee added for this upcoming season is Chris Byrd, a 6’2 wing transfer from Columbus State CC. “Chris (Byrd) is going to bring a lot of energy, he’s someone who can flat out shoot the basketball if left open” said Thomas, “With his size, he is very good at posting up and can pick up full court defensively if needed”.
Noah Berry, a 6’7 forward and a graduate of Wellington High School, will join this year’s team as well. However, Berry will be redshirted for this upcoming season. He will be eligible to play in the 2019-20 season.
Gio Jackson will also join the new comers for the Bears. Gio is a 6’0 point guard transfer from Everett Community College in Washington, and was named NWAC (Northwest Athletic Conference) player of the year last season, averaging eighteen points, nine rebounds, and six assists a game. “Gio (Jackson) will be a game changer for us next season”, Thomas said, “He (Gio) does a good job of gravitating to the ball”.
Shawnee also added Tim Biakapia, a 6’5 wing transfer from Pennsylvania Highlands CC, to this year’s team. Biakapia is the most recent addition to the Shawnee program, after being announced on July 19th that he would be joining the team. “He (Biakapia) had a very, very good JUCO (junior college) career his last two years at Pennsylvania Highlands where he averaged about 22.5 points per game for those two years, while averaging double digit rebounds as well” said Thomas, “He (Biakapia) is someone who has a nose for the basketball. A very unselfish kid, and his size is perfect for the Mid-South conference”.
Shawnee will return five players from last year’s campaign: Tamal Watkins (junior wing), Gavin Brown (sophomore wing), Justin Johnson (junior forward), Selby Hind-Wills (junior forward), and EJ Onu (sophomore forward). “We believe we have the pieces to be a national tournament team” said Thomas, “we just have a lot of work to do to get to that point”.