Lauren Daf­fenberg shoots in a game earlier this season. (S. Nathaniel Grime | Col­legian)

The Hillsdale College Chargers return three of their starting five from last year’s team with the help of a deep bench for the 2019 – 20 season. 

All-Con­ference players junior Davis Larson and senior Dylan Lowry con­sis­tently led the team last year, com­bining to average 25.5 points per game. Junior forward Austen Yarian returns as well, often leading the team in rebounds with an average of 6.4 per game last year. 

This trio teamed up with freshmen Patrick Cartier and Jack Gohlke, both of whom red­shirted last season, to score 51 of the team’s 63 points in an exhi­bition game against the Uni­versity of Toledo on Oct. 19. Hillsdale lost the game, 79 – 63. Cartier led the team in rebounds and points, with eight and 16, respec­tively. 

“Those guys are going to be important to us,” head coach John Tharp said. “It’s a little inter­esting trying mix kind of the returning guys like Davis and Dylan, with the new guys.” 

Larson said Cartier and Gohlke are adjusting pretty well since they were able to practice with the team last year. 

“We saw last year that they’re quick learners,” Larson said. “When we started prac­ticing before Toledo we saw they they just kind of caught on pretty quick and it was almost like we’ve been playing with them for more than a year.”

The Chargers only mus­tered 18 points in the first half against Toledo, trailing 41 – 18. After set­tling into an offense, they outscored the Rockets 45 – 38 in the second half. 

“I thought we showed a lot of potential, espe­cially in the second half and our offense started flowing,” sophomore Peter Kaltoff said. “It was revealing in the first half with what we need to work on. It’s an exhi­bition game and it just gives us a gauge for how our season’s going to go.”

“We scrim­maged four days after the official start of the season, and the first half of the game looked like we had only been prac­ticing for four days,” Tharp said. “But the second half we kind of relaxed and got in the flow of the game and played much better.”

Junior Connor Hill stepped into a bigger role last year, scoring a career-high 14 points. His aggressive energy plays a key role for the Chargers. He had three steals, four assists, and 12 points in his best, well-rounded game against Findlay last year. 

After grad­u­ating eight seniors from last year’s roster, this year’s upper­classmen will be stepping in to fill those spots.

“I think we had those eight guys who were a staple of the team and looked upon as leaders on and off the court, and I think that’s my biggest role right now,” Larson said. “I’m gonna play my game and do whatever I can to win, but when it comes to the lead­ership role, I just want to embrace that and look out for the young guys.”

The final four in last year’s men’s bas­ketball G‑MAC Tour­nament return to the top four in the pre­season polls. Walsh Uni­versity is pre­dicted to repeat as con­ference champion, with Findlay, Cedarville, and Hillsdale fol­lowing. 

“I don’t put a ton of thought into that. We, the staff, fully under­stand how good the league’s gonna be,” Tharp said. “Cedarville has almost everybody back from last year’s team, Findlay’s gonna be uber tal­ented, and Walsh has everybody back.”

The Chargers begin regular-season play Nov. 8 at home against Southern Indiana Uni­versity at 12:30.

“They’re coming into our house and we’re going to take the fight to them. We’re not going to let them determine how the beginning of our season goes,” Kalthoff said.” 

Hillsdale will face several top-ranked regional oppo­nents early on, such as Southern Indiana and Lewis Uni­versity who made it to the National Tour­nament last year.

“You want to boost your resume. You need to have sig­nature wins outside the con­ference and that are in the region,” Larson said. “If we beat a few top teams from the GLVC and GLIAC, you know that’s going to boost our resume and I’m excited for that.”