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NEVADA — Off to an 8-1 start this season, the Nevada Wildcats have broken into the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association (MBCA) Class 4 top 10 poll for the first time this week.
Nevada has posted wins over St. Pius X, Carthage, Rogers (Ark.), Clinton, St, Michael the Archangel, Warrensburg and Webb City. Its only loss has been to Joplin.
Head coach Shaun Gray says the team is more balanced than year’s past with a group of inside players, outside players, young players and experienced varsity players.
“On any given night we have three or four guys who can step up and be a 15-20 guy to go along with Clay (Gayman),” Gray said.
The team is led by 6’6 2018 forward Clay Gayman who has signed to play at Abilene Christian. He is putting up big numbers, including 5.5 blocked shots per game.
“He is a leader on the court, in the huddle and in the locker room and at practice,” Gray said. “He gets it done at both ends of the floor.
“His defensive presence is a game changer for us. He is obviously getting it done at the offensive end for us as well. He is scoring at all three levels and it all starts with him.”
Playing alongside Gayman has been 2019 forward Matt Thompson who has proven to be a strong outside shooter. He brings size to the court and the ability to spread the court.
“He is a multi-threat player who is going a lot of good things for us,” Gray said.
Nevada graduated standout point guard Matthew Sommerer, but freshman Logan Applegate and junior Carter Swearingen have stepped in and combined to average 14 points.
“The two of them at the point guard spot have done a good job, they are splitting minutes and they are doing a lot of good things,” Gray said.
Dalton Gayman, an athletic 6’5 2020 forward, has come off the Tigers’ bench and provided a big spark.
“He is able to come in and be a match-up problem for other teams,” Gray said. “With him, Thompson and Clay on the court at the same time, other teams rarely have someone that can match-up with all three of them.
“Dalton is physical inside and rebounds it well and defends well.”
The team’s defensive force has been Western Illinois football recruit Hunter Mason. A 6’3, 210-pound 2018 forward, Mason can defend multiple positions and takes pride in stopping the opposing team’s best player.
“He’s athletic and we can put him on the other team’s best scorer and he makes their night miserable,” Gray said. “He is playing good defense and gives us a lot of energy.”
Also in the mix is 6’2 2018 guard Braeden Hinton, a do-it-all type player who is averaging 8.0 points per game.
“He is a steady, versatile guy who will do whatever the teams needs him to do,” Gray said.
Gray says the team plays well together and takes turns stepping up as the Nos. 2-3 scorers alongside Clay Gayman. The team features unique size and is a tough match-up for most teams.
“We’ve been playing with a team-first mentality,” Gray said.