The Northern Oklahoma College Mavericks open the 2018-19 season Friday night at the Allen Classic in Iola, Kansas.
NOC (24-8 last season) is guided by Donnie Jackson, in his 6th season at Northern. Jackson is 111-51 in five years at NOC.
The Mavs are loaded with experience in 2018-19 with seven sophomores returning.
"This is a really good group," Jackson said. "They were thrown into the fire as freshman and I hope they are ready to take the next step as sophomores as not only better players but also better leaders. We'll need them to improve as players and leaders if we want to accomplish our goals."
The Mavs return All NJCAA Region 2 selection Trevion Lamar who averaged 16.4 points and 7.9 rebounds as a freshman. Lamar suffered a foot injury over the summer and has just returned to the Mavs line-up.
Lamar has been chosen as the Region 2 Pre-season Player of the Year. Lamar and Keiodre Perry were both named to the All-Region 2 Pre-Season Team.
Other returners include Khobe Austin-Johnson (10.5 points, 3.9 assists), Keiodre Perry (10.9 points), Deon Berrien (6.1 points), Demaree King 6.8 points) and Omar Boone (4.0 points per game). Mike Downing is a sophomore transfer that is expected to play a lot for the Mavs.
"We are picked second in the conference so expectations are high," Jackson said. "We are playing a tough non-conference schedule that I think will prepare us for the conference grind."
Non-conference games include dates with Cowley, Indian Hills, Allen, Ranger, and West Plains.
"It'll be a challenge every night," Jackson said. "We'll need our sophomores to step up big early in the season."
Jackson is assisted by Lance Russell and Will Dyer.