VIDEO: Mason Bates Interview
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – This is the first of two parts in a series chronicling Carson-Newman's men's basketball positions for 2018-19. The preview examines the Eagles' post players with assistance from senior Mason Bates (Cookeville, Tenn.).
Carson-Newman must cope with the loss of the program's all-time leader in double-doubles Shaun Jones, as well as its single-season record holder for dunks in Josh Murray. However, the cupboard is far from bare for the Eagles in 2018-19.
"The biggest thing with losing Josh and Shaun is how do you fill the rebounding stat," Bates said. "It'll be more of a team effort because Shaun was a double-double every night and Josh was a freak. We have to be more physical down low and make certain that we find who we need to find to box people out to give our guards a chance to chase down some balls for us."
Jones reset both the Carson-Newman single-season and career records for double-doubles. Jones had 19 for his career and six as a senior. The Lawrenceville, Ga.-native transferred in from Valdosta State and has scored more than 1,000 points in his basketball career, including 741 points in the Orange and Blue.
Jones is tied with former Carson-Newman Eagle Ray Rutledge for the fifth highest career rebounding average in South Atlantic Conference history. He tallied an 8.1 board per game average in his career.
Meanwhile, Murray wrapped up his tenure at Carson-Newman by shooting 70.9 percent from the field and averaging 8.9 points per game.
Bates is back to add versatility down low. The senior enters the year with 727 career points.
"I need to try to be physical down low, knock down open threes," Bates said. "Then the big thing is being a present leader on and off the floor."
Bates was C-N's fifth leading scorer last year with 9.9 points per game. A frequent stat-sheet stuffer, Bates was second on the team with 5.6 rebounds, third in assists with 86 and fourth in blocks with 17. Bates scored in double figures 13 times, leading C-N to a 12-1 record when he topped 10 points.
He reset his career high for scoring against Tusculum (2/14) on Valentine's Day with a 26-point effort in Holt Fieldhouse. He was 6-of-12 from the field that day and went a career-high 12-for-14 from the free throw line. Bates also pulled in the first three double-doubles of his career. The first came against Lee (11/25) with a 16-point, 10-board effort.
He had Carson-Newman's first double-double with points and assists in 11 years against Lenoir-Rhyne (12/16) and came within a rebound of a triple-double that day. His final one came against Catawba (2/17) and was aided by a career-high 13 boards. He also handed out at least five assists on a sextet of occasions.
Joining Bates among returners are Parker Role' (Atlanta, Ga.), Dima Bykov (Moscow, Russia) and Cam Andre (Kissimmee, Fla.). The Eagles will also see the on-court debuts of Brendan Coleman (Johnson City, Tenn.) and Chris Clayton (Marion, N.C.), both of whom red-shirted last year.
"We have some guys with some experience and we have some new guys who we hope will step up and can see time on the floor this year," Bates said. "We have pretty good chemistry and mesh well together."
Role' is the most well-seasoned player of the Eagles' returning front line. Role' made eight starts and appeared in 26 games for the Eagles as a junior.
He averaged four points and 3.1 rebounds per game. Role' had back-to-back double-digit scoring efforts against Coker (1/27) and Anderson (1/31) following an 11-point effort against the Cobras with a 10-point game against the Trojans.
From the Coker game to a contest against Lenoir-Rhyne (2/3) Role' made 12 consecutive shots. If those shots had all come in one game, he would have tied the SAC single game record for consecutive field goals made without missing.
"One thing he's really improved on is his physicality," Bates said. "Around the basket, he's worked to not get pushed around as much. He's also stretched his game behind the three-point line to knock down those shots."
He nearly had a double-double in the SAC quarterfinals against Newberry (2/28) with an 11-point, eight-rebound effort.
Bykov and Andre both have fresh new looks for their sophomore campaigns after some weight-loss efforts during the offseason.
"Both Dima and Cam have lost weight," Bates said. "They've become more explosive around the rim and a bit quicker on their feet to move better on the defensive side of the ball as well."
Bykov went from 280 pounds down to 230, Andre went from 230 down to 210. They both tallied double-digit scoring efforts in their first seasons at Mossy Creek. Bykov's lone start of the year came agaisnt Lenoir-Rhyne (12/16). He showed up in a major way with a career-high 16 points against the Bears on 7-of-10 shooting. He also had eight-point efforts against Catawba (1/6), Newberry (1/20) and Mars Hill (1/24).
Andre started his career with a bang, sending in a career-high 10 points in his first game in the Orange and Blue against Lander (11/10). He was 5-for-7 for the floor against the Bearcats. He had a career-high three blocks a game later against Southern Wesleyan (11/11).
Finally, Coleman and Clayton give the Eagles plenty of length and range.
"Both Chris and Brendan are super athletic," Bates said. "They both run the floor very well for big guys. Hopefully we can get out in transition and outrun other teams to get up and down the floor."
Coleman played for John Good at David Crockett High School, where he helped the Pioneers to a pair of district titles, a substate championship and the first state tournament berth in school history. Coleman led his team in rebounds as a junior and senior. He was named to the district and regional all-tournament teams and was a second team all-conference selection as a senior.
Clayton starred at Asheville Christian where he averaged 17 points and nine rebounds per game for the Titans. He led his team on the glass with those nine boards a game. He was an all-conference selection three straight seasons and also helped the Titans to three straight conference championships.
Carson-Newman's men's basketball position previews continue Thursday with the backcourt.