State Colleges

Friends the pick to win KCAC men’s basketball race

Friends men’s basketball coach Dale Faber tried the hard sell on Tuesday at KCAC media day, trying to convince everyone in the room that his team wasn’t what they thought it would be.

He bemoaned injuries that he claims have ravaged his program in the preseason. He made jokes about his players taking practices off because they mistakenly thought they were government employees after taking financial aid money.

He talked about having freshmen fill almost his entire roster.

The ruse lasted until Saint Mary coach Jon Bishop stepped to the podium.

“When is your first game, Dale?” Bishop asked.

Faber replied it was Oct. 29.

“Don’t let him fool you,” Bishop said. “All those guys will be ready Oct. 29.”

The Falcons, after several years away from the KCAC’s elite, are loaded. Faber returns three preseason All-KCAC players — Southeast and Hutchinson Community College guard Joe Mitchell and a pair of 6-foot-5 forwards in Anthony White and Colton Rausch.

Friends was picked to win the KCAC in both the coaches and media polls.

“At this point we honestly figure out what bodies are going to be able to participate,” Faber said. “We’ll know more at the end of the week. If everybody’s well, I wouldn’t blame people for picking us first.”

Faber said White and Rausch were nursing injuries they don’t know the extent of yet, but that Mitchell was 100 percent. Saint Mary, the defending champion, was picked to finish second by the coaches and third by the media. Tabor was picked second by the media and third by the coaches. In both polls, McPherson was picked fourth, Sterling was picked fifth and Bethany was picked sixth. Southwestern was picked seventh by the media and eighth by the coaches.

Bethel, coached by former Kansas forward Alonzo Jamison, was picked last in both polls.

On the women’s side, two-time defending KCAC champion Friends was picked third by the media and fourth by the coaches. Southwestern and Tabor were picked first and second in both polls.

“We’ve done a lot of learning so far and we need to do a lot more,” Friends coach RaeAnne Booth said. “We have really good leaders, really good returners.”

Sterling was picked fourth by the media and fifth by the coaches — coach Lonnie Kruse is 696-225 entering his 33rd season and several of the KCAC coaches went out of their way to point out he was closing in on win No. 700.

“It’s humbling ... it goes back to something I’ve always believed, and that’s that coaching is a fraternity,” Kruse said. “I consider a lot of the people I coach against my friends. The years just seem to go by so quickly.”