WINTER PARK, Fla. (October 17, 2018) – Just as he has every October since 1980, Rollins men's basketball coach Tom Klusman flung open the doors to the gym, rolled out the balls and officially opened the Tars hoops season with the squad's first practice on Tuesday.
The 10th-winningest coach in Division II history, Klusman begins his 39th year leading his alma mater, looking to continue an era of success nearly unmatched in collegiate basketball. He comes into the season with a career record of 693-407 and is the fifth-winningest active coach in Division II. He trails Tampa's Richard Schmidt by one victory for the most in Sunshine State Conference history. Among all divisions, all-time, Klusman ranks 43rd in wins.
Heading into the season, the biggest questions will be how to replace four seniors who accounted for 55 percent of last year's offense. Sam Philpott (17.7 ppg) and Jeff Merton (15.7 ppg) were both four-year, standout players who surpassed 1,000 career points. Deion Clark (10.5 ppg) and Jack Fleming (6.6 ppg) also leave big offensive shoes to fill for the Tars.
Fifth-year senior Eric Castaneda is the top-returning scorer for Rollins, putting up 10.8 points a game and leading the team with five rebounds a night. Fellow veterans Daniel Loh and Marcus Camacho will also be looked upon to shoulder the load on both ends of the court. Junior point guard Connor Mckim averaged 11.4 points and 3.8 assists a game and will once again be the Tars floor general this year. Junior Jakobi Bonner was a spark off the bench last year, scoring 8.5 points a game, while sophomore Parker Davis proved to be an impact player in his first collegiate season.
Six newcomers will suit up for the Tars this season, including transfers Chuchu Enechionyia and Trevor Recio. Enechionyia has made stops at VMI and Lincoln Trail Community College while Recio played two seasons at Queens University of Charlotte. Redshirt freshman Hutton Yenor will take the court for the first time this season after practicing with the team all last year while Matej Susec, Cade Long and Will Erickson are freshman who will be vying for playing time.
Rollins' schedule features six games against NCAA Tournament teams from a year ago, a tip-off classic in Melbourne, two games against the top NAIA teams in the nation and the annual, challenging trip to Las Vegas in December.
The Tars jump right into South Region play November 9-10 at the Florida Tech Tip-off Challenge, facing Benedict and Auburn-Montgomery. The home opener is slated for Monday, Nov. 12 against Ave Maria and followed by a date with Southeastern (No. 19), who advanced to the NAIA National Tournament last season and won The Sun Conference. The Tars welcome Puerto Rico Mayaguez the week of Thanksgiving (No. 21) and open SSC play at home against Embry-Riddle Nov. 28.
The fifth of six-straight home games starts off December with Lynn coming to town Dec. 1, followed by a date with Warner on Nov. 5. The Royals finished last season as the NCCAA national runners-up. Rollins then heads to Palm Beach Atlantic on Nov. 7 before finals week. In Last Vegas, the Tars will meet up with Angelo State on Dec. 18 and Tarleton State on Dec. 19 prior to departing for the holiday break.
Once back on campus, Rollins travels to Saint Leo on Dec. 29 to start the Wednesday-Saturday grind of the SSC schedule. On January 2, upstart Nova Southeastern visits Rollins and is followed by a home game with defending SSC Champion and Elite Eight participant Barry (Jan. 5). The next week, Rollins makes back-to-back trips to Florida's west coast, facing Tampa (Jan. 9) and Eckerd (Jan. 12). EC was an NCAA Tournament team last season, advancing to the Sweet 16 before falling to Barry.
Home games against rival Florida Southern (Jan. 19) and Florida Tech (Jan. 23) close the first half of the SSC slate. The second half starts with trips to Lynn (Jan. 26) and Embry-Riddle (Jan. 30) and continues with the other side of the home-away games from earlier in the season. A visit to Lakeland and game with Florida Southern on March 2 closes the regular season.
The Sunshine State Conference Tournament runs March 6-10 with Nova Southeastern hosting the semifinals and finals. NCAA Tournament play is slated for March 16-19 on campus sites and the 2019 NCAA Division II Elite Eight is March 27-30 in Evansville, Indiana.
All Rollins games can be found live on the Tars Sports Network at RollinsSportsLive.com with students from Full Sail University's Dan Patrick School of Sportscasting on the call for home games. The network is part of the new SunshineStateConference.tv. distribution network. Robert Segal and Jim "Shooter" Ferro will continue to call both home and road games on WPRK, 91.5 FM locally and worldwide at RollinsSportsLive.com.