Jeff Neubauer only had two players to replace on his 2006-2007 Ohio Valley Conference champion Colonels.

However, Julian Mascoll and Mike Brock were arguably the heart and soul of Eastern Kentucky University men’s basketball team the past two seasons.

After sitting out the first semester of the 2005-2006 season because of academic ineligibility, Mascoll became a real spark plug for Neubauer.

During his junior season, the 6-foot-4 Florida native started 11 of the 21 games he played in, averaging 6.7 points per game with 32 steals, 11 blocks and 44 assists.

As a senior, he started all 33 games averaging 34.1 minutes a game. He shot a team second-best 55.7 percent from the floor, while averaging a third-best 11.1 ppg.

Mascoll ran away as the assist leader with 160, almost double his closest teammate (Adam Leonard with 86). He also had 19 blocks and 72 steals.

Brock was the hard-nosed, hard-working player who did not always have the statistics to reflect his influence on a game.

He averaged 29.1 minutes with 28 starts in 33 games. He connected on 45.8 percent from the floor, fourth on the team.

The 6-foot-7 Kentucky native averaged 5.1 ppg along with a team high 5.3 rebounds per game.

Both seniors were strong on the defensive glass — Brock leading the team with 116 boards and Mascoll second with 103.

“A player is difficult to replace just because of experience,” Neubauer said. “Julian and Mike Brock were very good teammates. They were obviously good players. Julian averaged over 30 minutes a game and Mike Brock was over 25 minutes a game. That experience is so difficult to replace and that’s our challenge for this season.”

Returning for the challenge

The third-year coach does return eight players who did play this past season and two who sat out with injuries.

Of the eight, four averaged more than 20 minutes a game, with two, junior Mike Rose and sophomore Adam Leonard, averaging more than 30 minutes.

Looking to step into the senior roles will be 6-foot-8 Darnell Dialls and 6-foot-7 Jamaal Douglas.

Dialls missed four games with a knee injury, but started 27 of the 29 games he played in, averaging 24.8 minutes and a team-high 56.4 percent from the floor.

The Kentucky native averaged 8.7 ppg and 4.1 rpg.

Douglas averaged 6.2 ppg and 3.8 rpg with 11 starts.

However, the inside duo also led the team in fouling out. Dialls had five, while Douglas had three.

Both fouled out in the OVC finals against Austin Peay.

Leonard, 6-foot, is the only other Colonel to have fouled out as the team averaged just 13.6 fouls a game.

Rose, 6-foot-3, led the team in scoring with 15.1 ppg and Leonard was second with 12.5. However, Neubauer often credited those two being open by the penetration and assists from Mascoll.

Both found range from behind the three-point line early and often as Rose connected on 39.8 percent and Leonard 39.5.

The rookie hit a team-high 104 threes — tying the school’s single-season record — while Rose had 88.

Also returning will be sophomores 6-foot-5 Josh Daniel (3 ppg), 6-foot-7 Josh Taylor (2.7 ppg), 6-foot-4 Robin Mestdagh (0.3 ppg) and 6-foot-4 junior Harrison Brown (1.7 ppg).

“The interesting thing here as far as experience and number of players on the team is we have Ryan Wiersma who hasn’t played in about two years,” Neubauer said. “He’s an older guy, but it’s hard to get back on the court after not playing the game for two years because of two shoulder surgeries. And Ryan Dillman is another guy that practiced less than a dozen times last year. So again he’s returning to our team, but he basically hasn’t played basketball in two years as well because he injured himself in high school. So we do have a lot of people returning, but included in there are guys that haven’t played in a long time.”

Rose and Leonard will most likely share two of the three starting guard spots, while Dialls seems to be the pick for starting center. Douglas, Taylor, Wiersma and several new players will compete for the other position down low.

Rookie glance

The third-year coach had three scholarships to give out at the start of the 2006-2007 season.

Neubauer got an early signing from Justin Stommes out of Rocori High School in Cold Spring, Minn.

The 6-foot-7 wing player averaged 12 ppg, 6 rpg and 4 assists per game his junior year, while leading Rocori to the quarterfinals of the Minnesota State Class AAA Tournament.

Guard Rodney Ford, 6-foot-4, signed in April out of Affton High School in St. Louis, Mo.

Ford averaged 18.3 ppg, 8.3 rpg and 9.1 apg.

And most recently, Deveyon “Boo” Hunter of Hamilton High School in Memphis, Tenn., committed to the Colonels.

Hunter, a 6-foot-4 forward, led Hamilton to an undefeated season (39-0) on its way to a state championship and No. 7 national ranking in his junior season.

As a senior, he was Memphis All-Metro, averaging 16 ppg, 7 rpg and 3 apg.

Former Madison Southern standout Ty Robinson plans to tryout for the team as hopes to earn a spot as a walk-on. Robinson, 6-foot-3, finished third in the state this past season in three-point field goal percentage — 93-of-192 for 48.4 percent. He averaged 3.3 made threes a game.

The former Eagle also finished in the top 25 in rebounding with 9.9 boards a game.

Meaty schedule

EKU announced the 2007-2008 schedule Wednesday, which is highlighted by trips to Duke and UAB.

“Our schedule really is going to be challenging this year and not only because we are playing at UAB and Duke,” Neubauer said. “But, also the series with Western continues. Our other games, especially our games with Youngstown State and James Madison will be tough. I think both of those two teams will be really improved this year.”

Fortunately, the road-laden schedule of this past season benefits the Colonels with 16 home games this season.

Both Youngstown and JMU will be making the trip to McBrayer Arena along with a ESPN bracket-buster game.

The 16 home games is the most in program history.

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