FORT WORTH - Last season's title defense may have ended in the first round of the NAIA National Tournament with a 70-61 loss to eventual champion Graceland (Iowa), but the Texas Wesleyan University men's basketball team is poised for another deep run in Kansas City that will begin in just a little over a month.
Rams basketball will begin the season at one of the strongest non-conference NAIA tournaments ever assembled and it'll all be played on campus at the Sid Richardson Center. The lineup includes The Master's University (Calif.) took the No. 1 spot in the final Coaches' Top 25 poll last season, LSU-Alexandria - who lost to Graceland in the NAIA National Championship Game in 2018, LSU-Shreveport - ranked third in that same national Coaches' Poll and Texas Wesleyan, which posted a No. 15 ranking.
Texas Wesleyan will play LSU-Shreveport Thursday November 1 at 7 p.m. and LSU-Alexandria Friday November 2 at 3 p.m. The Rams beat The Master's University on their way to winning the 2017 NAIA National title.
A four-game home stand before Thanksgiving will give the #Ramily plenty of chances to see one of the best NAIA basketball teams in the country play. On Thursday, November 8 the Rams host Arlington Baptist and on Saturday, November 10 Wiley comes to town. Monday, November 12 Texas College is the visitor and Saturday, November 17 the home stand concludes with Our Lady of the Lake University. OLLU was last ranked No. 21 nationally. Pre-season conference and national polls will come out October 23rd.
The Rams will visit LSU-Shreveport in a home-and-home series for the second-straight year the day before Thanksgiving, Wednesday November 21.
Conference play begins Thursday November 29 with Bacone with three of the team's first four against SAC competition at home. The Rams will face rigorous four and three-game road trips in the middle of conference play and will also play road games against SAGU and Oklahoma City in the same week (first week of February), two of the toughest SAC teams on the schedule.
Senior leadership from returners will come from Sam Smith, Rob Thomas and Dare Brazel. Smith had the third most rebounds in 2017 despite being a guard, made 89.7% of his free throws (best on the team) and shot 46.8% from the floor - second amongst guards. Rob Thomas led the team with 131 assists and turned the ball over just 47 times in the process. Brazel started in eight of the 27 games he played, shot 51.4% from the floor - 50% from beyond the arc.
Juwan Jones is the leading scorer returning in 2018. A transfer from Essex County College, Jones bursted on the scene last year scoring 35 points in his debut against Dillard and scored over 20 points in six other contests.
There are plenty of new faces joining the Rams for a title chase. Julian Torres, a junior transfer from Southern Illinois-Edwardsville; Sam Lorenzen, junior transfer from Barton CC; Justin Flakes, sophomore transfer from Northwest CC; Joe Cook-Green, a junior transfer from Eastern Arizona; Andre Edwards Jr., a senior transfer from East Tennessee State and Diing Lwal Diing, a junior transfer from Lee College.
Lorenzen averaged 11.3 points per game at Barton, hitting 44.6% of his three pointers. Edwards was the sixth-leading scorer and averaged 15 minutes per game for ETSU. ETSU made the NCAA National Tournament in 2017 losing to Florida in the first round and fell one round short of making it again in 2018.
Texas Wesleyan picked up a local freshman in the off-season, the only true freshman on the team. Peyton Sallee from Chisholm Trail High School. Chisholm Trail finished 20-11 last season and Sallee set a program record for points in a game with 29. He also holds the CTHS record for three-pointers made in a game (eight), records as of December 2017.
The full schedule of the 2018-19 season can be viewed here.