Bobcat Hoops Returns this Week


Hayden Flinn

The GC men’s basketball team will tip-off the regular season this upcoming weekend. The Bobcats fell one game short of making the Division II NCAA tournament a season ago. They will look to pick up right where they left off and take it a step further this season.


“Make the NCAA Tournament, that’s our goal,” said head coach Mark Gainous. “That was our goal last year, and we fell short. The guys are motivated to make the NCAA tournament this year, and that’s our main goal.”


The Bobcats have high expectations after their impressive 10-3 campaign in the spring. The team returns most of its players from last year, including its two most prolific scorers, seniors Jordan Thomas and Wesley Simpson.


GC is also the only team in the PBC that has made the conference semifinals in each of the last two years.


Last year, the Bobcats saw several games canceled and postponed due to COVID-19. As a normal season approaches with much less limitations in place, players are eager to get back out on the court.


“I can’t wait,” Simpson said. “Especially after a season last year where we couldn’t have fans, the season was shortened to 13 games, and we got snubbed from the NCAA tournament. We have a lot to look forward to this season, and we’re ready to go.”


Simpson was the third-leading scorer for the team a year ago. He averaged 12.8 points per game, 5.8 rebounds per game, and shot 47 percent from the field. Despite only standing at 6’1”, Simpson served as the team’s second-best rebounder a year ago.


Kohl Roberts, the Bobcats’ leading rebounder in the spring, transferred to Flagler during the offseason. Roberts provided an important interior presence for the team during his GC playing career.


The Bobcats will now have to adjust their gameplay to a more “small-ball” style of basketball. They will run a more perimeter-oriented offense, relying more on the three-point shot, fast-break buckets, and quick passing to make up for their absence of size in the paint.


“We decided we’re going to play a lot faster this year,” Simpson said. “Having good depth and making sure we’re in good shape is going to be super important if we’re going to be pushing the ball up and down the court and pressing opponents on defense.”


Perhaps the biggest win for the Bobcats during the offseason was the return of Jordan Thomas. A season ago, the star combo guard averaged 18.4 points per game and 3.8 rebounds per game, shooting 36.0 percent from the three-point line.


With the new offensive approach the Bobcats plan to follow this year, guards like Thomas and Simpson should have huge seasons as the offense will primarily run through them.


“I’m feeling confident about my game,” Thomas said. “I think the biggest thing for me this year is just to facilitate more. That’s one thing I’ve been trying to focus on this offseason, just trying to be more of a complete point guard by getting other people involved.”


The Bobcats have played two scrimmages during the preseason to prepare them for the start of the regular season.


“We’ve been trying to get our chemistry down,” Simpson said. “It’s different when you’re playing in practice against your teammates who know the plays and what you like to do. It’s always good playing teams that you don’t know, but we’ve been just trying to hit shots because we’re going to rely a lot on the three-ball this year.”


The Bobcats start their season off with the Tri-Conference Challenge, which they will be hosting at the Centennial Center this weekend. They will play two games over the weekend. The GC season opener will pit them against Coker on Friday, Nov. 12, and their second game will come against Erskine on Saturday, Nov. 13.


The team will look to start their 2021-22 campaign strong as they aim to get over the hump and make the NCAA tournament they have been so close to reaching over the past few seasons.