By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
SALEM, Ore. -- The Willamette University men's basketball team will begin the 2019-20 regular season on Saturday, Nov. 9 with a home game against Montclair State University (N.J.). Game time at Cone Field House is set for 3 p.m. (PST).
Willamette enters the year with 11 returning players, led by Jonathan Watts (So., W, San Diego, CA/Rancho Bernardo HS) and Justus Eaglesmith (Jr., G, Sparks NV/Spanish Springs HS). Two of the returning players, Joshua Stubbs (Sr./Jr., W, Eugene, OR/Churchill HS) and Micah Fleming (Jr./So., PG, Orland, CA/Orland HS) have spent much of their careers battling injuries and hope to increase their participation this season.
Jordan Jenkins (Sr. in 2018-19) who was named First Team All-Northwest Conference and Third Team All-West Region last year, is not on the team this season after finishing the undergraduate portion of Willamette's 3/2 MBA program. As a senior, Jenkins was a finalist for the Josten's Trophy, which goes to the top student-athlete in NCAA Division III. He finished his basketball eligiblity with 1,109 career points and 588 career rebounds in 80 games with 71 starts. His career totals also included 219 assists, 62 blocked shots and 57 steals. In 2018-19, Jenkins led the Bearcats with 20.0 points and 10.3 rebounds per game.
This year, Jenkins is completing his MBA degree while competing on the Willamette football team as a graduate student. Entering Saturday's game at the University of Puget Sound, Jenkins was the Bearcats' top receiver with 32 catches for 464 yards and eight touchdowns.
While Jenkins will be difficult to replace, Watts and Eaglesmith appear ready for strong seasons after contributing in big ways a year ago. Watts averaged 12.8 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. he shot 54.4% from the field (117 of 215), connected on 55.1% of his 3-point shots (43 of 78) to lead the NWC, and sank 80.0% of his free throws (42 of 52). Eaglesmith achieved 11.0 points per game, while hitting 63 of 137 three-point shots (49.6%). He converted 82.6% at the free throw line (19 of 23).
Watts and Eaglesmith each scored a career-high 24 points against Pacific University on Feb. 5, 2019.
Alec Barba (Jr., G, Dallas, OR/Central HS) combined with Watts and Eaglesmith as the trio scored 163 of Willamette's 248 three-pointers. Barba put through 52 three-pointers and averaged 7.7 points per game. He shot 82.9% on free throws (29 of 35).
Ben Sutton (Jr., F, Seattle, WA/Ingraham HS), who earned 9.9 points and 4.3 rebounds per game last season while averaging 17.7 minutes on the court, will be looked to for increased playing time and scoring this year. Sutton shot 55.3% on field goals (68 of 123). He registered 12 points and eight rebounds in WU's exhibition game against Lewis-Clark State College (Idaho) on Oct. 26.
Another player who has fought injuries is Ryan Peterson (Jr., P, Edmonds, WA/Edmonds-Woodway HS). Last year, Peterson saw action in 22 games. This season, he will challenge for a starting position. He brings a solid defensive presence to the court and will also contribute to scoring inside the paint.
The Bearcats have seven first-year players. Newcomers who appear ready to battle for significant playing time early in the year are Kenny Wright Jr. (Fy., Dallas, TX/R.L. Turner HS), Daniel Plumer (Fy., North Las Vegas, NV/Democracy Preparatory Academy), and Cade Whicker (Fy., F, Fruit Heights, UT/Davis HS).
Head Coach Kip Ioane starts his 11th season as the leader of Willamette's basketball team. He is in his 19th season on the coaching staff, and he has been at Willamette since competing as a basketball player from 1997-98 through 2000-01. As a player, Ioane was a finalist for the Jostens Trophy.