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Belmont men’s basketball prepares for MVC debut

After a decade run in the Ohio Valley Conference, change has come for Belmont men’s basketball and leading the way is head coach Casey Alexander.

Taking over the reins from legendary coach Rick Byrd in the 2019-2020 season, Alexander led the Bruins to the OVC regular season and tournament championships and claimed another regular season title the following year.

Soon to be tipping off in the Missouri Valley Conference, excitement and uncertainty brews among Alexander’s team.

As the Bruins prepare for November, Alexander said the 2022-23 season will bring a multitude of challenges.

“It’s an unusual year for us with so many new faces,” Alexander said in a preseason press conference. “In the history of our program, the continuity and retention has been a real strength.”

Five Bruins graduated after last season, including two of the most decorated stars in the history of Belmont’s program – Grayson Murphy and Nick Muszynski.

With the loss of those veterans, the team also parted ways with two other players who entered the transfer portal. Will Richard joined the Gators at the University of Florida. JaCobi Wood went up north to join former OVC rival Murray State University, who also made the transition to the MVC.

In addition to six incoming freshmen, Belmont’s roster gained two transfers: guard Keishawn Davidson from Tennessee Tech University and forward Drew Friberg from Princeton University.

“Those guys have really helped stabilize things for us and have given us a veteran presence. That’s exactly what we wanted from them,” Alexander said.

Coming in with college-ball experience, Alexander expects both players to jump in and compete right away.

But Ben Sheppard, who was the leading scorer for the team last season, seems like he’s here to stay. He averaged 16.2 points per game, totaling 536 points across 33 appearances last season.

Sheppard will most likely be the leader of this year’s Belmont team, a role he must come to embrace, Alexander said.

“His most natural step is to become the leader of our team, he’s never had to have that role,” said Alexander. “We need him to be in charge in every way, shape or form when he’s on the floor.”

Alexander is welcoming the challenge of upholding the “Belmont standard” which consists of winning big games to ultimately qualify for the NCAA Tournament.

Belmont demonstrated its winning ability while in the OVC, and Alexander believes that experience gained in past season will help the Bruins well into the future.

“We’ve got a long way to go, as everyone does this time of year, but we’ve been really excited about how it’s coming together at this point.” Alexander said.

“We’re really looking forward to moving on.”

PHOTO: Ben Sheppard on the floor at Belmont’s 2021 homecoming game. Sheppard will be the new leader of the squad this season. Sarah Maninger/Belmont Vision

This article was written by Landen Secrest

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