ATHENS, Ohio -- The Ohio men's basketball team will unofficially open its 2017-18 season on Saturday (Nov. 3) with a Dad's Weekend exhibition game against Capital at the Convocation Center. Tip-off is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET.
The eyes of the Ohio fans will undoubtedly be on three of the team's five newcomers who will play tomorrow -- graduate forward Kevin Mickle (Brooklyn, N.Y.) and freshman guards Zach Butler (Spartanburg, S.C.) and Teyvion Kirk (Joliet, Ill.).
A readdition to the roster will very much bear watching, however.
Redshirt sophomore guard James Gollon (Stevens Point, Wis.) will see game action for the first time since March 23, 2016, when Ohio faced Morehead State in the 2016 College Basketball Invitational semifinals. As a true freshman in 2015-16, Gollon played in 20 games, tallying 21 points (1.1 per game), 14 rebounds (0.7 per game), five assists (0.3 per game) and two steals per game (0.1 per game) over 109 minutes (5.5 per game). He sat out the entire 2016-17 season with hip and shoulder injuries that had lingered since his playing days at Pacelli High School.
"It feels like everything is coming to fruition," said Gollon of his return to the court. "Just sitting out so long, I guess what I've always told everybody is you really realize how much you miss something when you can't do it. Luckily, I was still able to be around it and I had my coaching staff and teammates to help me through all of that. It feels good."
In many ways, Gollon will feel just like Mickle, Butler and Kirk when they suit up and take the floor for the first time as Bobcats. The advice he'll give his new teammates -- particularly Butler and Kirk -- is advice he says he will be trying to follow himself.
"Just go out there and play," said Gollon. "Play comfortable, play loose and just let the game come to you, which is advice I'm giving to myself, too, because this is the first time I'm playing in awhile."
Fourth-year head coach Saul Phillips is hoping Gollon can help the Bobcats make up for the three-point sharpshooting lost with the graduation of forward Kenny Kaminski, who departed Athens having made the ninth-most three-point field goals in program history with 164.
"I'd like to see him calm down and play with the pace he plays with when he's just splashing them all over the building in practice," said Phillips of his expectations for Gollon on Saturday. "He's doing it against pretty good players in practice in Mike (senior guard Mike Laster) and Jordy (junior guard Jordan Dartis). Shoot, he's got a pretty cool role: shoot threes. Settle down and embrace that and don't get too caught up thinking about what's coming next. Be in the moment with what you're doing now."
Gollon echoed his head coach when asked about his goals for himself going into the matchup with Capital.
"Just being able to settle in, settle down," said Gollon. "It's going to take a little bit because I haven't really played since my senior year of high school, honestly. I think that's my biggest goal, and, with that goal comes everything like winning and, as a team, settling down and relaxing out there so everybody can play and find their groove."
Ohio is 3-0 in exhibition games under Phillips, defeating Marietta College, 82-69, in 2014, Indiana Tech, 73-57, in '15 and Rio Grande, 87-56, in '16.
The Bobcats are 8-3 all-time against Capital. Ohio last met the Crusaders Nov. 26, 1988, posting an 81-67 win.
Capital is led by 23rd-year head coach Damon Goodwin. A member of NCAA Division III's Ohio Athletic Conference, the Crusaders were picked to finish fifth in the league's preseason coaches' poll. The Crusaders went 13-13 (8-10 OAC) in 2016-17. Capital's roster boasts just one senior -- guard Brennan Czuchran. Junior guard Austin Schreck averaged 11.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game for the Crusaders a season ago. On Thursday (Nov. 2), Capital suffered an 83-53 loss to Bowling Green at the Stroh Center in the first of its two-straight matchups against Mid-American Conference foes. Junior forward Caleb Cox led the Crusaders with 16 points, going 8-of-12 from the field. Schreck led Capital with nine rebounds and five assists.
Ohio will have the opportunity to gauge how much its roster has gelled since preseason practice opened on Oct. 1. The Bobcats return three starters from last season's 20-win team -- including a pair of 2017-18 Preseason All-MAC East Division Team selections in Dartis and sophomore forward Jason Carter (Johnstown, Ohio).
"I want to see us play like we practice, because I think the way we practice is conducive to winning and I think it's pretty watchable," said Phillips of Saturday's exhibition game. "I want to see guys get comfortable in front of a crowd at the Convo. You can talk about doing that, but you just never really know. Basically, you're comfortable when you're comfortable. There's no way to rush that along."
Unlike last season when he had a pretty solid idea of what his rotation was going look like going into the year, Phillips said that is something that is still working itself out and will likely continue to do so leading up to MAC play in January.
"I think that's going to have be fluid throughout the preseason here," said Phillips. "We're certainly going to have to factor in how people play in live competition against other people. I think the results aren't going to be necessarily consistent all the time. I think we're going to have to ride the hot hand a little more. That might mean some uneven rotations early on, and a guy that doesn't get a whole lot of run in one game might be starting in the next. It could happen."
Saturday's game will not feature any video stream or radio broadcast, but fans who can't make it to the Convo can still follow the action via live stats.
Ohio opens the 2017-18 regular season next Saturday (Nov. 11) against Alabama A&M. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m. ET.