There was a drop-off last season for the Odessa College men’s basketball team and the Wranglers enter the 2020-21 season looking to fix that.
After four straight seasons of 28 victories, the Wranglers weren’t able to maintain that streak, finishing 14-16 and missing out on a chance to compete at the Region V Tournament.
As head coach Kris Baumann returns for his third season in charge of the program, he says he’ll be looking to get things off to a better start this time around.
Because of COVID-19, the start of the season was pushed from November to January. That extra time to prepare is something that Baumann says will help his team, which begins the season at No. 14 in the NJCAA Division I preseason poll.
“I think that’s a really good because I think we’ll actually be a better product than we’ve ever had because we usually have to play games after a month of practice,” Baumann said. “We’ve had two or three months of practice and added some guys at Christmas that I think is really going to add to our talent level.”
Baumann will lean on defense as the key to the Wranglers’ success, adding that his team will press more this year than in the past and be able to create points off of those turnovers.
He’s confident in his offensive talent but understands what it takes to be on top in the challenging slate of the WJCAC.
“In this league, it always comes down to the last few minutes of games and you’ve got to be able to stop people,” Baumann said. “If we take care of the ball and play great defense, we’ll always give ourselves a chance to win.”
To that end, the depth of the Wranglers will be a key, with Baumann integrating several new faces with some returning players.
IGuard Isaiah Turner and center Alphoussenyi Diedhiou are back and guard Aquarn Butler also returns after playing with the Wranglers two seasons ago.
Baumann added that a couple of transfers from Division I programs — forwards Shakeem Alcindor and Dancell Leter — will also be among the key players that Baumann will look to step up.
“Those are the guys you kind of lean on early because they’ve been in these kinds of games and they understand how to function in these games and how to be successful,” Baumann said. “Hopefully, some of the talented freshman can come right away and be that second wave of guys that can really help us win.”
Baumann said that he’s ready to see what his team can do on the court and acknowledged that this will be a different year than most. Being flexible and adapting to current situations is a message that he’s shared with his team and the Wranglers have already had to make changes to their schedule.
Odessa College was supposed at the JUCO Elite 8 Tournament in Edmond, Okla. before that was cancelled due to COVID-19 precautions.
Instead, the Wranglers will open the year with three straight road games starting Friday at Hill College in Hillsboro. Games at Collin County Community College on Saturday in Plano and Ranger College on Sunday complete the weekend.
Baumann noted that it was not going to be an easy test but is grateful just for the chance to the play. He credited the NJCAA, Odessa College president Dr. Greg Williams and athletic director Wayne Baker for getting to the point where they could take the court again.
“I really feel fortunate that they’re allowing us to play and the kids are really excited,” Baumann said. “It’s been a long time since we’ve played a basketball game.”
“We got a really tough way to start with three games on the road because some things got changed because of COVID. It’s just good to kind of get back some kind of normalcy playing basketball.”