Men's Basketball

Transylvania looking to pick up the pace as season begins

A 74-28 exhibition basketball loss to Kentucky was more than a humbling experience for Transylvania.

It was also a time to learn.

The Pioneers have the chance to show how well they have progressed when they tip off their regular season Friday in the Hoopsville Invitational Classic at Baltimore.

Transy, 23-5 and Heartland Conference champs last season, will face Catholic University, then tackle Randolph-Macon on Saturday.

Coach Brian Lane is counting on an experienced team to steady his ship when games don't go as planned.

That wasn't the case during the UK exhibition, when the Pioneers "succumbed to fatigue a little bit" in the second half, Lane said.

Since then, Lane says his players have worked on shortcomings and have had some sharp practices.

Transy returns four starters from an NCAA regional squad: All-HCAC first-teamers Ethan Spurlin and Brandon Rash, second-teamer Barrett Meyer and honorable mention pick Tate Cox.

Depth is a question, though.

Cox has been out all week because of a knee injury.

Two players who combined for 53 appearances last season have quit — Ashley Hatfield and Matthew Clevenger.

Nick Fudge, a 5-foot-9 senior, will play point if Cox isn't ready Friday.

Joining Spurlin, Rash and Meyer in the lineup at the "three" position will be either 6-1 senior Taylor Botkin or Parker Stansberry, a 6-6 freshman out of Dixie Heights.

Meyer, a 6-2 senior out of Franklin County, says the UK scrimmage opened eyes.

"Besides just a great, fun experience, I think we recognized, offensively, positions where we need to kick it out when we drive, when we need to take shots early in the shot clock if it's a great shot, and when we need to try to get better shots," Meyer said. "It's hard to gauge in a game like that because we're not going to see that kind of size and athleticism. But we got a good look at how we're going to compete against Division III opponents when we scrimmaged Maryville last Friday."

Transy is led by undersized board-crashers Spurlin (6-4) and Rash (6-3). Their roles are not limited to the inside.

"What we have is a number of people that can play multiple positions," Lane said. "Sometimes we end up being more like a European team in that our big guys are out on the floor and really can create some mismatches for other defenses."

When Rash and Spurlin are inside, Transy has three-point threats to keep a defense honest. The Pioneers shot 41 percent from outside last season.

"If Rash and Spurlin aren't getting the inside looks because they're 'helping' a lot, they're really unselfish players and they're good at kicking it out to our shooters," Meyer said. "And that's where I think we're such a tough team to guard, because if they take away one thing we've got another thing waiting ... ."