ABILENE, Texas — At first glance you look at Hardin-Simmons' men's basketball team and you don't see a lot of production returning from a year ago, but a closer look shows a different picture that may prove the Cowboys are one of the more experienced teams around.
Eric Taylor is the only returning starter from a year ago. Taylor was a second-team all-American Southwest Conference selection and led the team in scoring at 14 points per game and assists with 121. He shot 35 percent from 3-point range.
"Eric is a very good scorer and can get the ball up and down the court," said Carse. "He probably is more of a two-guard than being the primary ball handler we had to play him at last year. We expect big things from him."
The only two other returners are Charles Sams, who had some big games late in the year, and Caleb Hogan who played in 19 games as a freshman.
"Charles is a guy that can make shots and he is a hard worker and he will give us productive minutes off the bench," said Carse. "Caleb works hard is a bulldog-type player that will stick his head in there and draw charges and compete. He will find a spot in the rotation."
Now the deeper look at the roster shows a pair of players that did not play a year ago. Derrick Jefferson broke his ankle in the preseason last year and missed the season and Jim Walter sat out last season preparing for the MCATs and medical school. Both were integral parts of the Cowboys' run to the ASC Championship game two years ago.
Jefferson, then a sophomore, averaged 10.6 points and 7.0 rebounds per game and shot 46 percent from the floor and 38 percent from 3-point range. Walter played in 26 games as a sophomore as well and started three.
"Derrick is a good all-around player," said Carse. "He is long, can run the floor and defend anyone on the floor. He battles on the boards and has averaged over seven rebounds per game in his career."
"Jimmy gives us a taller player at the three spot and he can really pass, defend and is an adequate shooter. We like the intangibles he brings to the court."
The Cowboys also have two talented transfers. John Barnes will run the point guard after competing two seasons at Division I Jacksonville State and one year at Division II West Georgia. He is extremely quick and can get the ball out in transition. He sat out last year but was at Hardin-Simmons.
Mawen Maywin gives the Cowboys some length in the middle. He is 6-7 with a 7-2 wingspan and is an above average shot blocker. He is also athletic around the rim and fits the Cowboys' offensive and defensive philosophy. He is a junior college transfer from Clarendon Junior College.
"When you look at our starting five John Barnes is a four-year player and is in college for his fifth year, Eric Taylor is in his fourth year of college, Jim Walter and Derrick Jefferson are both juniors in eligibility but are in their fourth years at HSU and Mawen is in his third season in college," said Carse. "That is a lot of experience."
The Cowboys are looking to get out and pressure and run the floor more than the last few years.
"Our personnel dictates we are going to have to score off of our defense a little more," said Carse. "We have some length at almost every position and we can move. I think we will be able to put on some defensive pressure and be more up-tempo."
Cameron Barnes is a junior college transfer that brings some athleticism and ability to score around the basket.
The Cowboys also have a group of six freshmen that Carse is really excited about for the future.
"We have six freshmen, all from Texas High Schools that we think we can build the future around. They are freshmen and still need some developing but we are excited about their progress to this point. They are pretty cohesive group and they represent our program well."
Duane Hopper is the most ready to step into the rotation and play immediately. He comes from Abilene Wylie where he was a co-district MVP last year.
"Duane doesn't do anything great, but he does everything well," said Carse. "He can defend most of the court, has a knack for the ball and is an adequate shooter."
Justin Jones, a 6-7 center from Holliday, will also see some early time as well.
"Justin is coming along and because of our lack of depth on the frontline he is going to play some early," said Carse. "He is very coachable and has continued to get better every day."
Nathaniel Jack is a guard out of Mart, where he was a talented scorer. He is athletic and runs the floor well. Keaton Hickman is 6-5 player from Paradise that plays mainly on the perimeter. Ryan Leiss is a point guard from Houston Christian and David Frye is from Royse City.
"Nathaniel can score around the basket and is athletic. Keaton is a 6-5 player with more of a perimeter skill set. Ryan Leiss is still adjusting to the level of competition and can handle the ball and has shown some shooting ability and David Frye we recruited to be a knockdown shooter, similar to what John Derr did for us the last four years."
"They are all progressing at different rates," said Carse. "We think all six of them have high ceilings and they will all do whatever you ask of them. If that is in the classroom, in the weight room or on the court. I am excited about blending them in with our older guys."