ORANGE, Calif. – The Chapman University men's basketball team opens the 2018-19 season at the Slugs Tipoff Classic. The Panthers were picked to finished third in the SCIAC in a poll of the conference coaches before the start of the season.
The Chapman roster features nine new players that weren't on the 2017-18 roster: four freshmen, four transfers and one that rejoins the team after a one year absence. Senior Reed Nakakihara is the only returning starter from last year's team that took fourth in the SCIAC and made a return to the postseason tournament.
In two years as a Panthers, he is averaging 10 points per game and is a 40.5 percent shooter. He has started every game in the last two years, shooting 41.6 percent from three-point range and is on pace to set a school record as a 93.3 percent free throw shooter.
Alongside Nakakihara, the Panthers return a handful of key pieces off the bench. Seniors Daniel McCown, Josh Mendoza, Jeff Kenney and Sean Comer each played a role off the bench last year with Comer starting nine games. At 17.5 minutes per game in 22 games, Kenney saw the most time off the bench. He averaged nearly five points and 2.5 rebounds while leading the team in blocks per game. The sharp shooting Mendoza made nearly half of his three-point attempts in 2017-18, sinking 33-of-69 on the season.
Re-joining after missing a season is 2016 National Rookie of the Year Cam Haslam. Haslam led the Panthers to a SCIAC title in 2015-16 but missed the majority of the next season and all of last year due to an injury. After nearly two years away, Haslam returns to the starting lineup. He averaged 19.5 points per game as a freshman, shooting 44 percent.
In the paint, the Panthers will look to newcomers for the majority of the minutes. A few transfers along with freshman Chandler White will take most the minutes but the combinations will be solidified as the season unfolds.
Sophomore Kevin Marlow is another returner that will look to jump into a more significant role. He saw limited time in 10 games last year but could jump into the mix this year alongside Haslam and Nakakihara in the back court.
Despite losing four starters, the Panthers were picked to finish third in the conference. They'll only have a handful of games to tune up before an early season SCIAC game against Cal Lutheran on Dec. 5. After playing their first four games on the road, the Panthers will return home on Nov. 29 and will play their final six games of 2018 at home. The SCIAC schedule picks back up again on Jan. 2.
With a couple of exhibition games already in the books, Chapman officially begins the 2018-19 season tonight at the UC Santa Cruz Tipoff Classic in northern California. The Panthers take on Linfield Friday at 7 p.m. before facing Pacific on Saturday at 3 p.m.
By Steven Olveda
Sports Information Director