Game 1
Saturday, Nov. 11 • Huntsville • 6:30 p.m. CT • Bernard G. Johnson Coliseum (6,100)
Sam Houston State (0-0, 0-0 Southland) vs UT Tyler (0-0, 0-0 American Southwest)
Live Stats@BearkatsMBB on Twitter

HUNTSVILLE – With three 20-win seasons in the last four years, the Sam Houston State Bearkats will begin their quest for their fourth in five years on Saturday when they kick off the 2017-18 season against UT Tyler at Bernard G. Johnson Coliseum.

The Bearkats feature seven returners from a 21-win team a year ago that advanced to the semifinals of the Southland Conference Tournament, including preseason all-SLC point guard John Dewey III. As a sophomore Dewey finished second in the league with 4.9 assists per game and averaged 10.0 points per game. Christopher Galbreath Jr. also returns for his second year with the club after averaging 10.1 points and 6.3 rebounds per game.

Coach Jason Hooten’s team will also feature nine newcomers, including six freshmen, after bringing in a talented signing class for this year. Transfers Abrian Edwards (Paris JC), Devin Jackson (Paris JC) and Freddy Bitondo (San Jacinto JC) are expected to make an immediate impact, while the Kats are also expecting big things from guard Marcus Harris who gains eligibility this year after sitting out 2016-17 following a transfer from the Unviersity of San Diego.

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Saturday will mark the first of two home games for the Kats to open the season with a Tuesday meeting with Schreiner also on the schedule for next week before they hit the road to take on Idaho in Moscow on their way to Anchorage, Ak., for three games at the final Great Alaska Shootout.

Few teams have been as successful as the Kats in the last four years with their 89 wins in that span being the most in school history and the fourth-most among all teams in Texas. The defensive-minded Bearkats will look to continue that trend as well, one which saw them lead the SLC in both defensive field-goal percentage (42.6) and turnovers forced (16.3).

- The Bearkats have won eight of the last 12 meetings with the Cowboys dating back to the 2007-08 season, and are 4-4 under head coach Jason Hooten. Sam Houston already owns a 74-67 win over the Cowboys this season when the Kats had to rally to erase a 34-31 halftime deficit, leading by as much as 11 in the second half. The Kats were led by Chris Galbreath’s 10 points and 11 rebounds.

- Sam Houston’s win over UCA in the opening round of the 2017 Southland Conference Tournament secured the 17th 20-win season in school history and the third under Jason Hooten, including 3 of the last 4 years. 

- Sam Houston’s 8-game conference win streak in 2016-17 was tied for the longest SLC win streak for the Kats in the Jason Hooten era. The 2014-15 squad also won 8 in a row on their way to a 26-9 overall mark and 15-3 record in league play.  

- John Dewey III exploded for 31 points in Sam’s home loss to Abilene Christian on Feb. 25, with 26 coming in the second half. It was the first 30-point game for the Kats since 2011 and the most points by any Bearkat since Gilberto Clavell had 35 at Texas State on March 6, 2010.

- Sam Houston finished with a 7-0 record in the month of January last year. It was the first undefeated January for the Kats since joining the Division I ranks.  

- The Kats reached the 70-point mark 24 times last season, going 19-5 in those games. Their first 2 losses came on the road at Ohio and Georgia Tech, before falling in conference play in OT at Lamar, at HBU and at home against ACU.

With 23 Division I basketball teams within Texas’ borders, one does not have to look far within the Lone Star State to find quality teams. In the last 4 seasons under Jason Hooten, the Bearkats have been one of those teams and this season having won 89 games since the beginning of the 2013-14 campaign. The only teams with more wins in that span include Stephen F. Austin (108), SMU (109) and Baylor (99).

Last year’s big-three group of seniors Paul Baxter, Aurimas Majauskas and Dakarai Henderson were the faces of the program for the Kats since Baxter joined as a freshman for the 2012-13 season.  The Kats won 89 games over the last four years, which was a new program record for wins in a four-year stretch, which was previously set from 1969-73. Baxter and Henderson both played in 86 wins during their tenure, which is the most in program history. 

With six true or redshirt freshmen on the roster in 2017-18, you’d think the Bearkats would be saddled with youth. But Sam Houston has a rarity in junior forward Josh Boutte. The transfer from Dodge City CC was born on Jan. 7, 1992, and according to research is the oldest player in Division I college basketball entering this season. He will turn 26 one day after the Bearkats play at UIW. 

The six freshmen make up a group of nine newcomers on this year’s roster, which is not a common thing for the Bearkats. This year marks only the second time since 2007-08 that the Bearkats have had at least 5 freshmen on its opening-day roster.  

Boutte may be a new face for the Kats, but he does not lack familiarity with the Bearkat coaching staff. Assistant coach Kyle Campbell is in his first year on the Bearkat coaching staff and spent the last 5 years as the head coach at Dodge City Community College, where he was Boutte’s head coach the past 2 seasons. Campbell compiled a 92-66 record at DCCC in his tenure, helping Boutte to honorable mention all-America honors last year after the sophomore averaged a double-double for the year.  

When the NCAA recognized more than 1,200 Division I teams for outstanding academic achievements in May, the Bearkats’ men’s basketball team was one of four Sam Houston teams to be recognized. More importantly, they were just the second Southland Conference men’s basketball team to earn the NCAA’s public recognition award, joining Northwestern State who earned it both in the 2004-05 and 2012-13 academic years. The APR measures eligibility, graduation and retention each semester or academic term and provides a clear picture of the academic performance for each team in every sport. 

Getting longer and more athletic was a point of emphasis for the Bearkats in its last signing class, and the coaching staff made sure that was addressed. Sam Houston will sport four players on this year’s roster - all freshmen or a redshirt freshman - checking in at 6-8 or taller. Both Chidozie Ndu and Justin Van Pelt list at 6-11, while Bubba Furlong is in at 6-9 and Manny Gatkek at 6-8 with expansive wingspans. The Kats had just 2 players on last year’s roster at 6-9 or taller, with one being Van Pelt during his redshirt season. 

The Bearkat bench was a major part last season’s early success with Sam’s reserves outscoring the opponent’s bench in 26 of 34 contests. In all, Sam Houston’s bench outscored its opponent’s bench by a 30.3-21.1 margin.

Under Hooten, the Bearkats have always made things happen on the defensive end. The Kats are forced 16.3 turnovers per game last season, a mark that was tied for tops among teams in the Southland. Additionally, Sam led the Southland in field goal percentage defense, holding its opponents to just 42.6 percent from the field. It was the second time in the last three years the Kats have led the SLC in opponent’s field goal percentage after they held teams to just 39.1 percent in 2014-15. In all, Sam Houston has led the SLC in field-goal percentage defense seven times, all coming since 2000. 

Don’t be surprised when you look at the Bearkat roster and see the last name Delaney on the roster. It’s not a misprint. Brothers Josh and Cameron Delaney are twins in their second year playing with the Kats and are one of just seven sets of twins in NCAA Division I college basketball. Additionally, their sister, Angela, suits up for the Bearkat women’s team. That makes Sam Houston one of just two schools in the nation with a brother/sister combo on the hardwood.  

Sam Houston has had its fair share of success in the assists department over the years, but have not had a player lead the Southland in dimes since Ashton Mitchell did so in the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons. Sophomore John Dewey III almost brought the assist crown back to Huntsville last season, finishing second in the SLC with 4.9 assists per game. Sam Houston hast claimed that individual statistical title 10 times previously in Southland history.