An eight-game win streak propelled the Bulldogs into the Appalachian Athletic Conference Tournament last season and so far Tennessee Wesleyan has continued that success in 2020.
TWU, 15-13 overall and 7-6 in the Appalachian Athletic Conference in 2019, is off to a good start with a 3-1 overall record and is 2-1 in the AAC. The Bulldogs have defeated Johnson University, Montreat College and Milligan University with Point University being the only loss.
TWU Coach Ray Stone is hopeful that success can continue throughout the season.
“The guys have bought in,” Stone said. “They have gelled together, they like each other and want to play hard for each other.”
The Bulldogs return a number of players from last year's team along with an infusion of new talent this season. According to TWU’s website, Ty Patterson, Bryant Bernard, Cameron Montgomery, Billy Balogun, Dalton Conn, Marquice Fifield, and Jonathan Webb all return for the Bulldogs while a number of redshirts from last season are set to take the floor. Returning redshirts Todd Lansden and Noah Fager bring even more experience to the team while Elisha Mayberry, Benjamin Pitts, Matthew Kile, Darwin Hubbard, Timothy Chatman and Kolbe Billingsley suit up for the first time for TWU this season. Newcomer Brendon Tyler gives the team more depth this season.
“We have a good core coming back,” Stone said. “We are long and athletic. We have a good bench and that’s something I’ve wanted to have. I have confidence in my bench, that I can put a bench player in there and not see a big dropoff from the starters.”
Having a good bench is important for the Bulldogs as Stone prefers to run an up-tempo style.
“We want to control the game and get up and down the court,” Stone said. “That’s what we’ve recruited to.”
Stone’s first goal, as it is with every AAC coach, is to be in the top seven in the conference and make the AAC Tournament. The Bulldogs were picked fourth in the conference behind Union, Montreat and Columbia International.
“We want to be in as high a position as we can,” Stone said. “Then we want to make it to the national (tournament).
To do that the Bulldogs will have to finish first in the regular season or, if the tournament champion is also the regular season tournament champ, a No. 2 finish in the tournament would get the job done. The AAC has two bids for the national tournament.
The Bulldogs will have to be consistent in order to achieve that goal and they will also have to stay healthy. They have already had games affected by the coronavirus, though not on Wesleyan’s part.
“I tell the guys to take care of their bodies,” Stone said. “We have to stay away from injuries and COVID. I tell them all the time to mask up, wash their hands and things like that.”
Stone begins his third season as head coach of the men's basketball program in 2020-2021. After serving as associate head coach for 14 seasons, Stone was promoted to head coach to begin the 2018-2019 season.
Stone played two years for the Bulldogs after transferring from Motlow State Community College.
Stone’s new assistant is Reggie Jackson, who is also assisting the Lady Bulldogs.