The Bellevue University men’s basketball team enters the 2019 season with a new, but familiar head coach.
Lucas Gabriel takes over the reigns as the Bruins head coach. Gabriel was an assistant coach for the Bruins during the 2013-14 season and then came back, in the same role, in 2018. He then filled the role of interim head coach for the last season’s final four games, guiding the team to a 3-1 record and helped lead the Bruins to their 10th-straight conference championship.
In between stints at Bellevue, Gabriel spent three seasons as the head assistant coach at Fresno City College in Fresno, Calif.
The first-year coach brings his California recruiting prowess with him to Bellevue to help reshape the offense. In the past two seasons, the Bruins have averaged under 75 points per game with finishes of 21-12 and 19-14, respectively.
Last season, Bellevue missed the National Tournament for the first time since 2001-02 season.
The Bruins return senior guards Connor Dukes and Jaron Dickson. Dukes averaged 6.5 PPG and was second on the team with 46 three-pointers, while Dickson averaged 8 PPG and made 45 three-pointers.
Senior forward Amenofis Mitchell and junior guards Jemeil King and Matt Blaney enter the equation after redshirting last season.
Junior guards Niamey Harris, Jonah Brown and Jaylen Wiltz join the backcourt. Harris led the City College of San Francisco in assists each of the past two seasons, Brown averaged 9.9 PPG by shooting 47.2 from the field at Fresno CC and Wiltz earned first team all-conference honors at Chaffey last season after averaging 10.5 points per game on 38.4 percent shooting from deep which accounted for 61 three-pointers.
Three junior forwards in Isaiah Bates, Lewis Hayes, and Vaj Rice provide depth up front. Bates averaged 11 points and 6.3 rebounds per game at Yuba College, Hayes averaged 10.2 points and 6.1 rebounds per game while shooting 62.1 percent at CCSF and Rice averaged 7.3 points and 4.1 rebounds during his career at Fullerton College.
Freshman forwards Boomer Jock (Lincoln High) and Deng Jal (Bellevue West) and guard Vinny Belcaster enter the program from the high school ranks.
Despite bringing in a number of new faces, the Bruins are ranked 22nd in the NAIA Preseason Coaches’ Poll and are picked to win the NSAA title, claiming five of eight first-place votes for 55 points. Dickinson picked up two first place votes to place second in the poll with 48 points.
Gabriel brings assistant coach Nate Geiser into the program, who joins the BU staff after spending the last four seasons as the lead assistant coach at Cal State Monterey Bay.
The Bruins opened the season with a 110-68 win over Baptist Bible (Mo.) at the Gordon Lozier Athletic Center Oct. 18. Bellevue shot 53.8 percent from the field and 51.3 from three-point range.
The 110 points are the second-most scored by the Bruins in a season-opener, since scoring 112 points against Graceland to open the 2006-07 season.
Dukes and King led the Bruins with 26 and 18 points, respectively.
Bellevue then traveled to face York College on Friday, where they won 75-69.
The Bruins host Briar Cliff, who receiving top 25 votes, in the BU/NCC Classic at Gordon Lozier Athletic Center Friday to start the month of November. The rest of the month features three top 25 teams, including two in the top 5.
In total, the end of November and through most of December features nine-straight games away, including a pair of contests in San Juan, Puerto Rico.