Brandon Cole during the Wolverines' Midnight Madness. (Amanda Gosline/MJ)
Brandon Cole during the Wolverines' Midnight Madness. (Amanda Gosline/MJ)
Brandon Cole during the Wolverines’ Midnight Madness. (Amanda Gosline/MJ)

By GEOFF MEHL, Staff Reporter

The University of Michigan-Dearborn men’s basketball team is entering a new season in 2014 and that’s not all that is new about the Wolverines.

They have new coaches, new players, and a fresh start after finishing tenth in the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference in the 2013-14 campaign.

The Wolverines went 8-22 overall last season, going 5-17 within the WHAC and 8-9 defending home court. They were disappointing on the road with a 0-17 record and look to improve moving forward.

Now that the season is nearing its start, let’s look at some of the players and coaches that make up the UM-Dearborn men’s basketball team.

Coaching Staff

This season the Wolverines will be led by first-year head coach Taylor Langley. Langley was previously an offensive assistant for four years under Coach Burt Paddock at Davenport University. While at Davenport, the Panthers went 117-25 overall, which included a NAIA Fab Four appearance, three trips to the NAIA Elite 8 and two WHAC championships.

“UM-Dearborn definitely hit a home-run and I know he will provide another team in the WHAC that will be difficult to deal with,” Paddock told DUPanther.com.

Accompanying Langley on the coaching staff will be Assistants Siva Senthil, Vince Thibodeau and Dwayne Edwards. All the assistants are also in their first year in the UM-Dearborn program.

Guards

The Wolverines are bringing back three guards from the previous season that will bring experience to the position. Senior, Jamiel Strickland was an impact player in 2013, leading the team with 11 points, three assists and three rebounds per game.

Sophomore, Brandon Cole will also look to take the next step going into the season. The 6-foot-5 Cole started 10 games and averaged 18 minutes per with seven points and three rebounds. Cole is impressed by the way the new coaching staff has taken on this team.

“There’s definitely a new intensity that coach Langley has brought over,” he said. “He really pushes us to be the best and believes we can accomplish more than this school has ever been to.”

Along with Cole and Strickland is 6-foot-1 junior Ray Ryan. Ryan is an experienced player who can add experience off the bench for UM-Dearborn.

The Wolverines were busy in the offseason adding several new guards to the roster from both recruiting and transfer students. Junior, Anthony Barley transferred from Colby Community College of the JUCO Jayhawks league in Kansas. He is a solid defender and Langley referred to him as a sharpshooter behind the three point line.

Daryl Mobley Jr. is 5-foot-10 junior transfer from UM-Dearborn’s backyard. He’s from Henry Ford Community College and is also a good three point shooter, as he averaged 12 points per game at Henry Ford.

Both Mobley Jr. and Barley have the ability to make an impact for the Wolverines in their first year in the program.

“These guys are game-ready right now,” Langley said. “They will be ready to step in and contribute.”

Adding depth at the position, UM-Dearborn recruited three freshmen that will compete for playing time. Xavier Crofford from Redford Thurston has a chance to see time as he excelled in high school, averaging 12 points and four steals. He also was efficient beyond the arc shooting 41 percent and uses his athleticism on the defensive end.

Freshmen, Deonte Bell and Victor Mattison will round out the guards for the Wolverines. Both will compete as they develop within the program.

With all the changeover on the roster, Cole feels that the team is gelling and building important relationships.

“It actually didn’t take that long for guys to get used to each other and we have a good blend of personalities,” he said. “We all had to go through conditioning together which ended up really bonding us.”

Forwards

When it comes to the Wolverine forwards, they are bringing back some familiar faces. Sophomore, Gage Throgmorton is coming off a solid performance in 2013. He averaged nine points and three rebounds last season and could see extended playing time as he has moved to power forward to increase his role on the offensive end of the court.

Sophomore, Nathaniel Packwood could also see a bigger role. The 6-foot-5 Packwood will be a solid edition off the bench in a clogged front court.

Along with Packwood and Throgmorton will be transfer Marcus Williams. The 6-foot-7 Williams is a transfer from Henry Ford Community College and could make an immediate impact with the size he brings to UM-Dearborn.

Finally, bringing leadership to the forward position is senior, Khalil Beidoun. Beidoun feels the most important way to win in the WHAC is to play defense.

“Defense wins games because you can win any style of game as long as you are playing defense,” he said. “If we do that, we should be able to compete with every team in our conference.”

The final forward is Nadis Ahmic. The sophomore will also be competing for playing with the upperclassmen and transfer forwards the Wolverines have brought it.

Centers

UM-Dearborn will be featuring a plethora of centers. It will be an interesting competition for JUCO transfer Paul Standtke, Jason Penn and returners Balazs Juhazs and Patrick Hebda. Going into the season it is unclear who will start, but the competition will be tough and the Wolverines will be stronger at the position than in the past seasons.

Penn, the 6-foot-8 freshman, may see a starting role as he is the tallest on the UM-Dearborn roster. Though he may start the season he will have experience pushing him for playing time.

While with Wayne County Community College last season, Standtke finished fourth amongst NJCAA Division-II players in rebounds with 321.

This season will be interesting for UM-Dearborn with all its new faces. They have the chance to make a splash in a conference that they have yet to reach the pinnacle of. The first game of the year is at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 28 on the road against Rochester College.

“I’m expecting big things from us this season,” said Cole. “We’re definitely going to prove a lot of people wrong and be a team that others have respect (for) and even fear.”