The word that might best describe the Alpena Community College men's basketball team this season is versatile.
That's because this year's group of players is athletic and can play multiple positions. The majority of this year's team is young, but Alpena coach Frank McCourt hopes that his team's skill can overcome the lack of experience.
"This year's team is very young. We've got four returning sophomores, which means we're going to be playing with kids who don't have any college experience, which means we're probably going to struggle early," McCourt said.
The Lumberjacks open the 2013-14 season against Mid-Michigan College at 7:30 p.m., tonight at Park Arena and are looking for a better start to the season after beginning last year on a five-game skid on the way to a 6-22 finish.
With an upgrade in talent, McCourt will have a lot of options in his lineup, especially at shooting guard and the two forward spots. Dion Ivory, a 6-0 freshman from Toledo, will be ACC's starting point guard and has already impressed McCourt will his toughness and
"He's tough as nails, he's got good ball instincts," McCourt said. "I think overall, we're much better athletically."
The team's four returning players this year are guard Logan Wickert, forward/guard William Gates Jr., point guard Kharri Dailey and forward/guard Cory Lamp. Dailey was one of the Lumberjacks' best players last season, outscoring and outrebounding many of his opponents despite being the smallest player on the floor.
Gates and freshmen Scott Hicks and Ray'Shon Anderson are among those in the mix at the shooting guard and forward spots and Hicks is another freshman who has impressed with his versatility.
Freshmen Travon Howard and sophomore Jarod Jones are ACC's other guards and freshmen Kiyon Bush, Stephen Shepard and Eric Thompson are forwards. Freshmen Trevor Pigg and Pierre Brackett are combo players.
"I know who my point guards are going to be, I know who my bigs are going to be (and at) 2, 3, 4 we're going to mix it up," McCourt said.
Toledo and Flint have long been fertile recruiting grounds for McCourt and this year is no exception. Four players on this year's team are from Toledo-Dailey, Hicks, Ivory and Howard- and three are from Flint-Bush, Thompson and Brackett.
McCourt attributes that to ACC's reputation and the theory that if one player comes from a certain area, more are sure to follow.
Though the Lumberjacks could go through some growing pains early in the season, their talent level could help them be a surprise team in the MCCAA Eastern Conference. While Mott is ranked No. 2 in the nation after an appearance in the NJCAA Division II men's basketball tournament, the rest of the conference could be anyone's game. ACC won't begin conference play until January, giving McCourt's squad plenty of time to gel.
McCourt said he focused his recruiting efforts this season on upgrading his talent level and with the group he has, he's expecting better results.
"We are better than we were last year because we are deeper. We have a lot of talented players," McCourt said. "I'll guarantee we'll be better than we were last year."
James Andersen can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.