The Byrd Cage

The 2015 Bruins

In Features on November 14, 2014 at 8:29 am


Guys. It’s basketball season and just like last year, we’re all scratching our heads, trying to figure out what kind of Bruin team we have on our hands. The Byrd Cage is excited to figure it out with you by way of some good content this year.  Tonight’s game against Wright State will obviously be more enlightening than what you’re about to read here but until then let’s cover the basics.


Last year, we started out having graduated 5 seniors and assuming Belmont was going to be a god awful team. We had lost Kerron & Ian – the very identity of the program – and thought all was lost. And what do ya know – we still ended up doing neat stuff like . . . beating the Tarheels in the Dean dome, winning a fifth consecutive regular season conference championship, and going three rounds deep in the NIT. On the other hand, we committed an insane amount of fouls on the back of new NCAA rules (thanks Rick..), turned the ball over at an amazing clip and lost the OVC Championship Tournament in the final game to an on-fire Eastern Kentucky team.


We’ve lost leading scorer JJ Mann, occasionally brilliant Blake Jenkins, and tall-guy Drew Windler. Our seniors are … Holden Mobley, Spencer Turner, and Reece Chamberlain…

BUT, in addition to familiar faces in sharp shooting Nick Smith, versatile Evan Bradds, and shoe-in all conference Craig Bradshaw, the Byrd Man has a plethora of new weapons that we are really excited about watching.

Another, more pessimistic way of saying this would be…there are 7 players suiting up that have never played a game for the Bruins. Seven. But you never get pessimism (or sarcasm) here at the Byrd Cage…

….So here’s a reminder of who all the noobs on the hardwood will be this year:

1) Taylor Barnette is now eligible to shoot basketballs. Thank God. From what we’ve heard, this transfer from University of Virginia can make it rain from the arc. At ‘Meet the Bruins’ this week, he drained one from basically the scorers table. Plus, he’s apparently a plus defender, something the Bruins drastically need to improve on as a team. But can he guard Cameron Payne? Trick question – no one can. Look for Taylor to compete for minutes by being an aggressive defender and shooting with a hand in his face from behind the arc.

2) Tyler Hadden is a 6’10, 240 lb, big dude. We have an…[clears throat] … interesting history with big guys, so color us skeptical until proven otherwise. JUST IN CASE YOU FORGOT CHAD LANG IS A FLIPPIN BISON. Gosh. Anyway, Tyler red-shirted last year and took the season to learn Rick’s ways and to put on some pounds. Homeboy is 6-10, 240 lbs and will give Reece a weapon in the paint that we have been lacking for several years (sorry Trevor…and Drew…and Chad). He looks hella coordinated so I for one am pumped. I’m also excited to see us have a legit big man to swat at OVC big boys like EKU’s Eric Stutz and Murray State’s Jarvis Williams. Don’t let us down Tyler.

3) Austin Luke – I think I might be most excited about seeing Austin’s game. He’s got handles that we desperately need and is apparently a passing/assisting machine. He comes with an impressive resume from a big basketball program in Texas. Here’s to hoping that red-shirt year was spent learning from the mistakes of our point guard play last year. For what its worth, I bet he did spend last year learning how to effectively get the ball to big man Tyler Hadden who also red-shirted last year.

4) Burton Sampson – Last year, Coach Byrd said Burton was the best walk on in team history. Not sure what the competition is there but this year Rick is saying Burton could be the most complete player on the team. He comes from The Webb School in Knoxville where he was a big time scorer and a big time rebounder. If Sampson, Hadden, and Bradds are all on the floor at the same time, we could be a serious rebounding team – which would be weird. Evan told us last year that Burton and Taylor can shoot the lights out of the Curb. If they’re on the floor at the same time and the Bruins can make that last extra pass in the rotation, I predict rain in the CEC.

5) Amanze Egekeze (uh- MAHN-zay egg-uh-KAY-zuh) may have the best hair on the team, if not the entire OVC. Gotta love a flat top. Plus anyone who puts Common’s Resurrection on his Sophomore mixtape is a winner in my book. The Bruins were pretty stoked to get this guy from Chicago last year who is another big forward that can shoot and grab boards. Now, I don’t know a ton about what goes into the decision to red shirt. If you’re playing for Rick, I would assume that red-shirting would be a no brainer; take some time to learn the system and grab a free masters degree while you’re at it. When a team has this many personnel options, Amanze must be pretty confident that he’s good enough to compete for big minutes in his first year.

6) Mack Mercer – Same goes for The Big Mack (I think we can all agree on this nickname) who is hitting the ground running, forgoing the red shirt. He’s big and was a hero in high school. Who is he on the Bruins? Time will tell.

7) Josh Lester is from Brentwood Academy. And by the sound of this Rick Byrd quote and the bricks he was throwing up at Meet the Bruins, seems eerily reminiscent of a certain Brandon Baker (aka The Bakery). Rick lovessssssss these gritty kind of guys for some reason.

“I have seen very few players improve in one year’s time more
than Josh Lester has. He used his redshirt season to really
improve his skills and to learn our system both offensively and
defensively. No one on our team works harder to execute his
responsibilities more than Josh. He is a great defender and
rebounder. With continued improvement at this rate, Josh will
certainly help our basketball team this year.”  – Rick Byrd’s Xanga

What will our starting five look like? I have no clue. From the sound of it, I don’t think anyone does. I think it’s pretty reasonable to assume that Craig, Reece, and Evan pretty much have to be in there. Does Tyler Hadden start? Burton Sampson? Taylor Barnette? Who knows. I’m excited to see how it pans out in Dayton tonight.

If you’re watching online with us, talk to us on twitter @BelmontByrdCage.


  1. “tall-guy Drew Windler” FTW.

  2. Good luck to the Bruins tonight, and the rest of their non-conference slate. Looking forward to January 15th!

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