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Boys basketball: Athleticism a big bonus for Buffalo

By Nick Brockman

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Buffalo lacks size, but the Bison boys basketball team plans to compensate with plenty of numbers and speed this season.

Dylan Rich, a 6-foot-2 senior center, represents the tallest Buffalo player with the graduation of 6-5 forward Alex Ferrari, but with plenty of depth and athleticism, the Bison hope to create a victory plan that doesn't require height.

"We have a lot of guys back, a lot of experience," Coach Chuck Elkins said of his 13 returning members. "We have a mixture of some really good senior leadership and some really athletic juniors. One area we're kind of hurting in is we're not very big. Size wise, I would say 6-1, 6-2 max is our biggest kid, and we don't have very many of those."

Last season, Buffalo finished 18-8 following a 46-42 loss to Charleston Catholic in the Class A Region 4 co-final.

Beyond Rich, juniors Bradley Harris and Aaron Lewis are the next tallest players at 6-1. Lewis returns to the roster healthy after breaking his ankle early in the 2011-12 season.

With smaller players typically comes speed and greater ball-handling skills, though.

"We have a lot of guards," Elkins said. "They do handle the ball well. Our kids are pretty athletic. They all play football or ran cross country or done something."

Senior guard Levi Jordan, quarterback for the Buffalo football team, leads the returning Bison. Elkins said he expects Jordan to reach the 1,000-point club in mid January.

"Levi, he is the leader of the whole thing, just like he was in football," Elkins said. "He was the quarterback, and he's going to be everybody's center of attention.

"He's going to score some points, but he also gives us good rebounding, pretty good ball handler, and just a great leader on the floor. He's kind of the go-to guy when everything gets in trouble."

Fellow senior Jordan Fletcher will return too and this year will handle the bulk of responsibilities at point guard in place of graduated Jarrett Smith.

"He'll start out at point, but he'll play a lot of different positions," Elkins said, "and (juniors) Isaiah Robinson and Cory Hoshor will also play some at the point."

Buffalo's deep junior class also includes Austin Moore, Gabe Garrison and Laythen Good.

Without size to battle opponents inside, Elkins said he'll rely upon his team's other physical talents.

"I really think this team's greatest strength is its athletic ability," he said. "We do have some people that can run and jump and are pretty quick. That's going to be what we live and die by, is how much pressure we can put on people with our athletic kids."

Whether playing offense or defense, Elkins said the Bison will employ a fast-paced approach.

"We're going to try and out-run and out-athletic other teams," he said. "We do have some good shooters. We just want to play very up-tempo and see how many mistakes we can force the other team into."

Buffalo last made the State Tournament in 2008. If the Bison play to their potential, Buffalo could threaten to return, as Elkins said he expects a successful season to include 15 to 18 wins and playing in the regional finals.

With such returning talent, the Bison won't worry about size. All eyes point forward to success and, hopefully, the postseason.


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