GOSHEN, Ind. – Throughout their 10-game winning streak, the Goshen College men's basketball team has certainly had contributions from all over the lineup, but it's hard to overlook a certain group of three new players.
Kalamazoo Valley Community College transfers Mike Betcher and Garner Small and freshman Kody Chandler have been welcome additions to the Maple Leafs' lineup this season. What is special about this group, however, is that they all hail from the same town of Schoolcraft (Mich.).
It's no accident that Goshen's success this season has coincided with some great play from the new players who teamed up to take Schoolcraft High School to the Michigan State Title game back in 2008-09. Chandler currently leads the team in scoring, and his 15.7 points per game is third in the Mid-Central College Conference. Betcher is also averaging double digits in points, sitting at 10.2, and is also third in the conference with a team-leading eight rebounds per contest. Small has been invaluable off the bench, contributing nine points and 5.2 rebounds in an average of 23 minutes.
The trio's early success has been evidence of a quick transition to the Maple Leafs' program. "Everybody was real nice from our first visit," Small said. "It made you feel like you already knew guys." Betcher added, "We are actually a really close team and I think that translates onto the court." All three also noted the importance of already knowing juniors Casey Pratt (Kalamazoo, Mich.) and Kyle Davis (Portage, Mich.) before coming to Goshen.
Familiarity with each other, though, is probably the most important factor in the success Chandler, Betcher, and Small have experienced in their new uniforms. Chandler was actually the first of the three to commit to the Leafs, but said he had a gut feeling that, "If I did that (committed), they would do the same." Chandler added, "We are just so comfortable playing together and having that comfort makes it easy to play." Small echoed Chandler's sentiments, saying, "We kind of already know what each other is going to do. It seems like nothing has changed at all," he said, despite the fact that they haven't played together organized in two years.
Small also noted the success they had in high school as a motivating factor for regrouping. Betcher added, "I personally feel like we left some unfinished business in Schoolcraft by not winning a championship together (during) Garner's and my senior year (Kody's sophomore), so we are hoping to win one here at Goshen together."
Asked how playing in that state final game prepared them for playing in the tough MCC, Small replied, "It gets you ready for those big games. Especially for the atmosphere." Betcher agreed, saying, "It just helps you in the sense of knowing what a big game feels like and how to respond. Every conference game is going to be a big game for us this year, so being consistent and level headed is very important."
Though each of the three has their own personal goals for the year, they all made it clear that the team's goals are the top priority this season. Small put it simply: "Our goal is to get to Branson," referencing the site of the National Tournament. Chandler was more specific, saying, "It's not making it to Branson, but winning it. We will not be satisfied with anything but that."
"You've got to set your goals high to see what you are made of," Betcher concluded. "We have a good chance I feel, but we have to bring it every game because no team will be a push-over, especially in our conference. Everyone comes to play which makes it that much more exciting." And with the elements these three bring to the Maple Leafs, things always are.
By: Nick Wesman
Sports Information Intern