LIBERAL, Kan. – The Seward County men's basketball team is eager to begin the season, with second-year head coach Jason Sautter leading the way. Under the direction of Sautter, the Saints posted an 18-14 record last year, doubling the win total from the prior season.
It's a different feeling from a season ago, when the team featured just two sophomores. This season's Saints squad will feature seven sophomores, including the leading scorer from a season ago, Isiah Small (Jersey City, N.J.) They also return 2018 Region VI All-Tournament Team selection Hegel Augustin (Queens, N.Y.). Devin Bethely (Baton Rouge, La.), Mohamed Selmi (Tunis, Tunisia), Julian Santamaria (Mar del Plate, Argentina) and Montrevion Flowers (Bryan, Texas) will all look to improve upon their freshman campaigns. Reggie Miller (Houston, Texas) is one of three transfers, the others being redshirt freshman Qaiyoom Olanlege (Brooklyn, N.Y.) and sophomore Jon Brown (Harlem, N.Y.)
Small, who averaged 14.8 points per game, will look to elevate his game in 2018-19 after being named Honorable Mention All-Jayhawk during his freshman year. He finished his season shooting 59.2 percent from the field, the fifth highest in Seward County history, while finishing with a team-high six double-doubles.
The Saints freshman claim heavy East Coast roots, as five of the nine newcomers hail from New York. Nayshon Hamlett Kane (Brooklyn, N.Y.), Marco Morency (Mount Vernon, N.Y.), Paul Person (Bronx, N.Y.), Elijah Punnett (Brooklyn, N.Y.) and Romiro Santiago (Bahia Blanca, Argentina) will all fight for minutes at the guard position. Artem Safiniskyi (Kyiv, Ukraine) and Yarden Willis (Atlanta, Ga.) add height to roster, coming in at 6-foot-8 and 7-feet, respectively.
After taking over a program that finished last (14th place) in the Jayhawk West in 2017, Sautter pushed last season's squad to an 8th place finish, while earning their first home playoff game in four years and first trip to the Region VI Tournament Quarterfinals in five years. Look for another year of Sautter's signature stingy defense, after leading the Jayhawk West in points against, allowing just 66.1 points per game.
Sautter will be joined by first year Assistant Coach James Barrett. Barrett comes to Seward after two years as the coach of the New York Rens AAU program, helping multiple athletes reach the NCAA Division I rank.
Seward was picked to finish third in the new Jayhawk West, behind Hutchinson and Barton. Two Jayhawk schools are ranked in the Top 25 in the NJCAA preseason poll – Coffeyville (4th) and Hutchinson (9th).
The Saints will begin its home slate of 15 games on November 2, when they open the season in the Greenhouse against Northern Oklahoma-Enid as part of the Pizza Hut Classic. Seward will begin league play when the green and white travel to El Dorado to take on Butler on November 28. Tickets for the Pizza Hut Classic can be picked up at Liberal Pizza Hut Locations