Loaded with four returning starters from last season and a trio of all-conference performers, the 2013-14 Alaska Anchorage men’s basketball squad is hungry for a return to the NCAA Tournament.

After barely missing their third straight ‘Big Dance’ with an 18-9 overall mark last year, the Seawolves will feature one of the nation’s top backcourts, led by All-America candidates Kyle Fossman, Teancum Stafford and Travis Thompson.

“I’m excited about our four returning starters and two returning redshirts being the core of our group,” said Osborne, who has compiled five NCAA berths and a 175-93 record in nine seasons at the helm. “We have a lot of experience and a lot of options in our backcourt, and I feel this group is very focused on the team concept and sets high goals.”

A First Team All-Great Northwest Athletic Conference pick last year, Fossman is one of two players with three years in the Seawolf system, along with Thompson, a junior guard who was Second Team All-GNAC as a sophomore in 2011-12.

A 6-foot senior from Haines, Fossman led the Seawolves and ranked seventh in the GNAC with 14.8 points per game as a junior, along with top-5 league ranks in three-pointers per game (2.6), three-point percentage (.445), free-throw percentage (.854) and minutes per game (36.2). A career .457 three-point shooter, Fossman combines with Thompson (.463) to give Osborne two of the top four long-range bombers in program history. Thompson, a 6-1, 195-pounder from Anchorage (Dimond HS), averaged 11.8 points and led the GNAC with .476 three-point shooting and a 2.7-to-1 assist-turnover ratio two seasons ago before choosing to redshirt last year.

Meanwhile, Stafford burst on the scene with 14.2 points and 4.5 rebounds per game in his first season after transferring from Snow College, earning Second Team All-GNAC honors as a sophomore. The 6-5, 205-pound swingman averaged 17.7 points over the second half of the GNAC schedule and finished with 22 double-digit scoring efforts.

Another Dimond High product, senior guard Colton Lauwers started 26 of 27 games as a junior, posting 6.2 points and 3.4 assists per contest. Osborne calls the 6-3, 215-pounder his ‘utility’ guy, saying he expects to use Lauwers at multiple positions.

Not to be forgotten after sitting out his required redshirt year, point guard Brian McGill has the Seawolf coaches excited about his debut, too.

“There were a lot of days last year when Brian McGill was the best player in the gym during practice,” Osborne said of the 6-2, 180-pound transfer from league rival Western Oregon. “He’s a creative, dynamic player who brings a unique skill set to our backcourt. He’s also matured physically since his freshman year at WOU.”

Pushing the regulars will be junior shooting guard Boomer Blossom, who returns to the program after honing his skills at the JC level, and freshman point guard DeVante Baisa, a walk-on who enjoyed a standout prep career in Tracy, Calif. (Kimball HS). Blossom, a Soldotna product who played his freshman season at UAA, averaged 11.7 points and 7.9 rebounds at Minnesota State Community & Technical College last year.

While the UAA backcourt enters the season as a known commodity, the frontcourt will be the wild card in the equation. Sophomore forward Christian Leckband is the only returner who stands 6-6 or taller, although the 6-6, 205-pounder from Nome delivered good numbers of 6.4 points, 3.1 rebounds and .431 three-point shooting in his rookie campaign, logging 22 starts.

“There’s not much depth of experience on the interior,” Osborne said. “We have been pleased with the progress of (junior post) Brad Mears, who we feel will compete favorably with the best big men in our conference. We’re looking for one or more players to step up and fill that frontcourt position.”

Mears, a 6-9, 230-pounder from South Jordan, Utah, comes to Anchorage after a solid two-year career at Snow College, where he was formerly a teammate of Stafford.

Joining Mears as newcomers in the post are a pair of freshmen in 6-7, 180-pound Jacob Craft (Sandy, Utah) and 6-7, 205-pound Jackson McTier (Rockhampton, Australia). Craft comes north as an older rookie, having served a 2-year Mormon mission and redshirted at Central Wyoming, while McTier enters as an 18-year-old true freshman.

Another recruit, 6-8, 260-pound post Kalidou Diouf, will redshirt for the Seawolves after an all-star prep career his home nation of Germany.

Prior to the always-tough 18-game GNAC campaign, the Seawolves begin the non-conference slate with games against Lindenwood, Minnesota State and Cal State Dominquez Hills at the Disney Tip-Off Classic in Anaheim, Nov. 8-10, followed by home games in the AT&T Jamboree against Regis and Holy Names, Nov. 15-16. Thanksgiving week will bring the usual gauntlet of Div. I opponents in the Carrs/Safeway Great Alaska Shootout, with UAA opening this year against Big 12 foe Texas Christian in a nationally televised contest on CBS Sports Network, Nov. 27.