By Tim Glon
ADA — The Ohio Northern men's basketball team faces a unique makeup of its squad entering the 2013-14 season.
The Polar Bears welcome back four starters, six regulars and seven lettermen from last year's team that went 13-14 overall and finished seventh in the Ohio Athletic Conference with an 8-10 record.
All three seniors are returning All-Conference players and the top four scorers and five of the top six rebounders all return.
Adding to the mix is 12 freshmen that will be battling for playing time.
Second-year head coach Kevin Byrne likes the competition that the preseason practices will bring and the unique mix between so many talented returners and a group of talented newcomers.
"Our goals is to get better every day as a team," Byrne said. "It is a bit unique to have a small group of returners, yet have so many returners with a great deal of experience and talent.
"We hope to have several of our freshmen step up and challenge those guys for some playing time and we fell like there is the talent level in the incoming class to do that."
Here is a breakdown of the 2013-14 ONU men's basketball team, by position:
Byrne has a wealth of talent and experience at the guard positions, with four returners that have a combined 254 games and 133 career starts to their credit.
Senior Brandon Rushton is a three-time All-Conference guard that led ONU in scoring each of the past two seasons, averaging 15.1 ppg last year and 13.4 ppg in 2011-12.
Rushton is a prototypical scorer that can get to the rim and shoot the 3-pointer well and has started all 81 games in his career.
He was a Second Team All-OAC honoree as a junior last year after earning Honorable Mention All-Conference accolades his first two seasons as a Polar Bear.
Senior Jared Horstman is a two-year starter on the perimeter.
He is a versatile player who was second on the team in scoring at 11.9 ppg last year, led the team in rebounding at 5.1 rpg and shot a team-best 56.4 percent from the floor.
Horstman was an Honorable Mention All-OAC honoree last season.
Junior Isaiah Roux has spent the past two seasons as backup point guard and appears ready to take over the reigns this season.
Roux shot 83.3 percent from the foul line and led the Polar Bears in assists (68) and steals (34) last year.
Junior Jordan Martin has been a regular in the rotation each of first two seasons and looks to have his minutes continue to increase.
Sophomore newcomer Devon Allen and incoming freshmen Cole Chambers, Keith Corbin, Josh Foster, Grant Goddard, Joey Hurless, Jordan Matusik, Alex Meyer and Doug Rasch, will also battle for playing time.
"We have four experienced veteran players returning on the perimeter," Byrne said. "But at the same time, we are looking for depth and would like to see some of those freshmen battle for some playing time."
Royal was third on the team in scoring at 11.1 ppg and was third in rebounding at 3.7 rpg.
Pennington started 26 games opposite Royal at forward and finished fourth on the team in scoring at 9.9 ppg and was also third in rebounding at 3.7 rpg.
He also led the team with an 88.6 free throw shooting percentage.
"We hope to have great competition on the inside this season," Byrne said. " Royal and Pennington have proven themselves to be solid OAC players and we are looking for some of the others to again step up and grab some minutes. We may be a little small as far as size is concerned, but we expect that our guys will battle for rebounds, be a threat to score and play excellent defense against anyone we face."
The Polar Bears are hoping to improve on last year's seventh place finish in the league.
Byrne thinks his squad is poised to do just that with three All-Conference players, six returning regulars and a quality incoming freshman class on the 2013-14 roster.
Ohio Northern won the 1993 NCAA Division III National Championship, reached the 2000 NCAA Division III Final Four and won OAC Championships in 2001, 2000, 1999, 1995, 1993, 1988, 1982, 1976.