WICHITA — Both Bethel College women’s basketball coach Drew Johnson and men’s coach Jason Artaz expressed optimism for the upcoming seasons Wednesday during the KCAC Media Day at the Crestview Country Club.
The Bethel women were picked to finish ninth in the coaches poll and 10th in the media poll. The Thresher men were picked 13th by both the coaches and media.
The BC women are coming off a 12-18 campaign last year, 8-14 in KCAC play. The Threshers finished tied for ninth, two games out of the eighth and final post-season tournament berth.
Johnson, in his second season, returns two starters — sophomore Abby Schmidt (14.4 points per game, 9.8 rebounds a game and 2.0 blocks per game), who broke the single season rebounding record; and senior Jade Brown (9.6 ppg, 2.8 assists per game and 1.5 steals a game).
Bethel lost three seniors to graduation — Fantasia Johnson, Kelsey Potter and Kylee Schunn.
“Last year’s season was kind of interesting, a tale of two halves, or maybe three parts,” Drew Johnson said. “In our early schedule, we were able to knock off a couple of national tournament teams from the previous year, then we started the conference season 0-8. We had to get out of our own way a little bit and change what we did offensively. The second half of season, we won eight of 11 games. We were tied or ahead in the fourth quarter in every one but one. We were in everything. We didn’t win them all. I’m excited about the growing we showed in the season.”
Artaz makes his debut as the Thresher head coach. The former BC player spent the past four seasons as an assistant to the now-athletic director Tony Hoops.
Bethel lost three starters in Chase Bannister, David Harris and Maurice Jordan. Bannister was among the team’s all-time 3-point shooters.
Top returnees include Terrell Marshall (11 ppg, 4.1 apg, 1.5 spg) and Poe Bryant (7.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg).
“We were not very good last year defensively, giving up 88 points a game,” Artaz said. “Our guys who came in have a lot of length and rebound very well. We’re trying to create a defensive identity with our team. Those guys are helping us turn it around.”
Oklahoma Wesleyan was the consensus pick to win the men’s title, topping both the coaches and media polls. Tabor was the consensus pick for the women.
The Bethel women open the season at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Randall University in Moore, Okla. The men open the season Oct. 27 at home against NAIA Division I William Woods.