The Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) men's basketball program begins a new era when the Bears open the season November 2 against Southeast (Neb.) Community College (SENEB) at Beatrice, Neb.
The Bears have a new head coach in Josh Sash and a host of new players with nine freshman on the 15-player roster.
Sash takes over for former head coach John Bowler, who left DMACC to join the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee men's basketball program as an assistant coach.
"I really like the group that we have," Sash said. "I think we're pretty deep and have some good length, size and athleticism. I'm really happy with the character and work ethic of the guys we have. I think we have a chance to have a really good season."
The Bears begin the season ranked 17th in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division II poll, something Sash said is more about the program's tradition, especially because the team returns just one player with significant playing time last season in sophomore guard Zach Lester of Clear Lake.
"I think some people probably saw us play in some of the preseason jamborees we played in, liked the pieces we have and thought we had a chance to have a pretty solid year," Sash said.
Sash said he will look to Lester for leadership.
"He's the one guy on our team who has been through a season here, a league season here and knows what it takes to compete and win in our league at this level," Sash said. "We're looking for him to have a really good year and to continue to provide some leadership for our team."
Sash said sophomore Demarion Bariffe-Smith, a transfer from Minnesota-Crookston, freshman Mike Hartford of McKinney, Texas, and freshman V.J. Wilmington of Davenport at competing with Lester at shooting guard and that all of them can play at small forward as well.
"We're pretty deep and there is not much drop off after our top five," Sash said. "We're going to play a lot of guys this year."
Small forward candidates are sophomore transfers Barlow Alleruzzo of Chicago, Ill., and Jai Bijiek of Des Moines. Ryan Schmitt, a 6-foot-11 freshman from Van Meter, is getting looked at in the middle along with freshman John Herrick of Boone.
Sash wants his team to play fast in transition and push the ball up the floor.
"We want to play fast and if we can score fast, then we will," Sash said. "If we can't, then we're going to get into something offensively, move the ball and be patient and see what we can get."
Sash said rebounding is a key to his team's success this season.
"We have to rebound the ball really well," Sash said. "With the size and physicality and athleticism that we have, we should be a team that can dominate on the glass. I think we have to be a team that rebounds defensively and I think we're going to be a team that is very cognizant of shot selection and making sure we're taking the right shots to be successful."