Zach Freeman to Highlight First Ron Rose-Era Squad at IWU
2006-07 Illinois Wesleyan Season Preview
November 8, 2006
By Bob Quillman, IWUHoops.com
Zach Freeman averaged 20.3 points and 7.9 rebounds in IWU's final 8 games last season
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Two first team All-Americans, four starters, and eight of the top nine...oh, and the head coach.
It is really easy to identify who is gone. Eight seniors from Illinois Wesleyan's national 3rd Place finisher graduated and head coach Scott Trost departed for Division II Lewis University.
Without a program in hand, what isn't easy is figuring out who is still around. Titans fans are familiar with names like "Darius Gant", "Andrew Gilmore", and "Andrew Freeman" and seen most of the players on the 2006-07 roster play JV games, but do we really know who the heck these guys are?
I recently caught up with first-year Illinois Wesleyan head coach Ron Rose to begin getting familiar with the 2006-07 Titans.
When you ask coach Rose the very open ended question, "So, how has it been going so far?", the look on his face says it all. It's obviously been a whirlwind for the former Bloomington High School skipper since May 12, the day he was named head basketball coach at his alma mater.
"We've been very busy trying to get our team ready for the season as well as recruiting the next group of players. It's been really crazy but very, very fun," he said. "It's just been great to get back on campus and feel like a part of Illinois Wesleyan again."
Rose and his players started getting to know each other in May, a process that is clearly still playing out but going well. "The summer was a great transitional time," he said. "We were fortunate to have about 11 guys in town with internships or jobs and it was a good time to get to know the current players and get my feet on the ground in a somewhat low-stress environment." He continued, "The transition to the school year has been really smooth. The kids have jumped right on board. We have a group of hungry players who are eager for the opportunity, eager to learn, eager to be coached."
Senior co-captain Zach Freeman also seems comfortable with the transition. "It has been great so far because everybody is starting fresh," said Freeman. "The positive reinforcement from Coach Rose is really helping everybody get motivated and get on the same page."
Many of Ron Rose's coaching philosophies stem from his playing days at Illinois Wesleyan. As a starting point-guard in 68 games as a Titan, Rose played on two CCIW championship teams, and three NCAA Divison III tournament squads. The 1987-88 squad that went 15-1 in the CCIW and 24-5 overall - falling in an Elite 8 heartbreaker at Ohio Wesleyan - is considered one of the best IWU squads ever. "I think back to when I played here for coach Bridges. We were an up and down team that got easy shots in transition, easy shots in the halfcourt with good execution. We got the ball in the post, scored on backdoors, and were very efficient" he said. "My senior year, we averaged 92 points a game and that wasn't because we were run and gun," Rose explained. "It was because we had skilled players who could make shots and we were a smart transition team that took good shots."
Rose wants to implement a similar offensive style as IWU's head coach. "If you look at how I'd like to play longterm at Illinois Wesleyan, it's smart, efficient transition basketball," he said. "We will run a motion offense that hopefully creates easy shots and high scoring opportunities."
On the other end of the floor, Rose calls himself a "man-to-man coach." "In a perfect scenario, I'd love to to be all man-to-man, where we can get after you in a hard-nosed, tough, halfcourt man-to-man," he said. "We will have a zone available, especially seasons like this one, where we might not be able to match up physically in certain situations or to keep guys out of foul trouble. But primarily, I'd like to be a man-to-man team."
When asked about his new coach's style, Zach Freeman used the word "positive" multiple times. "He is definitely a postive motivator," said Freeman. "He is very demanding, but he sees the good in things. The way he looks at the game helps you realize if you make one mistake it is not the end of the world and if you do make a mistake, it is up to you to work on it and get better."
Putting the Pieces Together
It would be difficult enough for a returning head coach to put all these new pieces together, but imagine having to first get to know your players and their abilities. "I've tried to avoid making any assumptions based on things I may have heard about a player," explained Rose. "I want to make sure I know these guys for who they are off the court and what they can do on it."
While it is still early, the Titans have already played one scrimmage (a 28-point win over NAIA St. Francis), with the second on Friday, November 10 at Blackburn. It is clear the 2006-07 rotation is taking firm shape. Below is my analysis of where things stand as of today.
Rose's first Illinois Wesleyan team will be led by one of the premier players in Division III, 6-7 center Zach Freeman. "Zach is a special talent, "said Rose. "He has all the tools to have an All-American type season. He scores inside in a variety of ways, he can hit the mid-range jumpshot, he rebounds, is a great athlete and an explosive jumper. "
Freeman enters his senior season with 1152 points scored, good for 30th all-time at Illinois Wesleyan, and 595 rebounds, the 11th best total ever at IWU. As a junior he averaged 16.2 points and 7.6 rebounds, shooting 60% from the field. In six NCAA tournament games he averaged 21 points and 9 rebounds, including a 29 point, 10 rebound performance in Round 2, versus Carroll. In the tournament, Freeman connected on 51 of 71 (72%) shots from the field.
In listening to Rose speak, it's clear that he's looking for leadership out of his senior co-captain as much he is on-court production. "Zach is the guy who will have to lead us, where in past years you had Dauksas and Amelianovich and that group, said Rose. " He is a senior and the players all look to him. I'm hoping that he feels that sense of responsibility from the tip."
Freeman is making a conscious effort to meet Rose's expectations. "It is definitely different for me this year," Freeman said. "My job is really to make sure everyone knows what we need to do as a team. Also, to make sure everyone is hanging out together and getting to know each other, so when we step out on the court, we are comfortable with each other."
The 6-7 senior is well aware that he will be keyed on heavily by opposing defenses. "We can create the advantage with me as the focal point inside, finding open players," he said. "The focus on me will create a ton of opportunities for our shooters, and we have some guys who people don't know yet who can really shoot it."
Finding a new backcourt
With the graduation of Adam Dauksas, Jason Fisher, Matt Arnold, and Mike McGraw, the Titans will feature an entirely new cast in the backcourt this season. Rose seems very comfortable with his options though, and it sounds as if one player has emerged as a definite starter -- 6-3 sophomore Andrew Gilmore (Stillwater, MN - Stillwater Area H.S.).
"Andrew has a world of potential as a perimeter player, said Rose. "He is also establishing himself as one of the leaders on the team. He understands what we need to do offensively and defensively and is a fierce competitor."
Whether Gilmore will play the point or shooting guard appears to still be determined. Rose explained, "You talk about 'combo-guards', who can play the 1 or the 2, and that is Andrew. It is too early to tell where he is going to play more minutes because it not only depends on where he is most effective, but also where other players step up." He continued, "If we have another point-guard step up and secure that time, we'll probably slide Andrew over (to the 2), which would give him more scoring opportunities. If we have a shooting guard step up, then we will probably move Andrew over to the 1 more. It is nice to have someone of his versatility that can play the 1 or the 2."
Gilmore suffered from tendonitis in both knees over the summer, which was believed to be caused by a growth spurt. Listed at 6-1 as a freshman, Gilmore has grown a full two inches since the end of the 2005-06 campaign. "Andrew is a legit 6-3 or so now," said Rose. "He is still dealing with some tendonitis in those knees, but the good thing is that he has definitely grown and that is going to help him."
In listening to Rose speak and reading between a few lines, it sounds like the other emerging backcourt starter is 6-1 senior shooting guard Mike Harrigan (Oak Lawn - Brother Rice H.S.). "We're counting on a big senior year from Mike…he has waited his turn," said Rose. "He's a scrappy, hard-nosed, south side of Chicago guy and someone I know is going to give 110%." Harrigan's collegiate career began at Division I Loyola (Chicago), where he walked-on as a freshman.
Highly-regarded freshman point-guard Sean Dwyer - the 2006 Daily Herald Player of the Year - is continuing to make the adjustment from Hersey High School to NCAA Division III basketball. "Sean is about as hard a worker as you will ever find. He spends as much or more time in the weight room than anyone. He also has tremendous leadership ability," said Rose. "With Sean, it is going to be a case of adjusting to the college game. The way he plays the point-guard is as a quarterback, as someone who directs traffic. It is tough now, early on, to be that type of point-guard when you are feeling your way through it yourself. It is going to be a case where Sean will get better and better as he feels more and more comfortable with the system."
Zach Freeman, who not long ago was a freshman thrown into the fire, thinks Dwyer will contribute. "I love his game. He's got a ton of upside," said Freeman. "He has all the tools, it is just all about confidence. It takes a while to get used to the speed and how you want to play and how you have to approach each game. He is young, but we are going to throw him right in there. He will figure it out."
A player pushing for a lot of minutes at the 2 is Pekin native Jordan Morris, a 6-3 sophomore. Also in the backcourt mix is 6-0 sophomore point-guard Teddy Toliver (Springfield - Southeast H.S.). Both players were Honorable Mention IBCA Class AA all-staters in high school. It is probably fair to say that Morris has secured a spot in the rotation, while Toliver is competing with Dwyer for the back-up point-guard minutes.
Big seasons needed from A. Freeman and Gant
Joining Zach Freeman in the starting frontcourt will be his identical twin brother, and team co-captain, Andrew Freeman. While Zach has started for 3 seasons, Andrew has played sparingly as a Titan. That will change this year. "In the past, it has been tough for Andrew to get on the floor, and when he has been on the floor, there haven't been situations where the pressure has been on to produce," said Rose. "For us to win games and be competitive this season, he is going to have to play and play well."
Listening to Rose speak about Andrew Freeman, it's obvious just how important he considers him to the success of the 2006-07 Titans. "We are really expecting and needing a breakout year from Andrew. He's slowly getting more and more confident and aggressive offensively, both looking for his shot as well as taking it to the basket," said Rose. "In our league, at 6-6 and athletic, he can pose mismatches. We're going to count on him to be a leader and to be a guy that produces on a nightly basis."
Andrew's biggest fan, not surprisingly, seems to be his brother. "He is going to surprise a lot of people," said Zach. "He is a better outside shooter than me and he can do so many things on the floor to help us win."
The third frontcourt starter will be junior Darius Gant (Oswego H.S.). "Darius is a tremendous athlete with a world of potential," said Rose. "He is going to have the opportunity to display his talents this year." Gant was a heavily recruited prep star at Oswego H.S., where he averaged 14.7 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 2 steals while playing a combination of small forward, power forward, and even some shooting guard.
"The key for Darius is to be active and assertive," said Rose. "We challenge him in practice to touch the ball as many times as possible, whether it is offensive rebounds, running the floor, or on defense. He has a lot of gifts and if he brings the right attitude to the table, he's going to have a good year for us."
Zach Freeman seems to think Gant will have a big junior season. "We need Darius in there as far as offensive rebounding and defensive rebounding and he can be a go-to guy on offense," he said. "He has so much athletic ability it's scary."
Post Depth a Question
With the talent and depth at spots 1-3 - even if inexperienced - you sense that the perimeter play in general for the 2006-07 Titans will be solid. The biggest question in the rotation appears to be how well the backups at the 4 and 5 perform.
IWU's first post player off the bench will probably be 6-5/190 junior Jason Bloom (Normal Community H.S.). "Has really been a pleasant surprise," said Rose. "He is a young man I used to have in basketball camp when he was in 3rd and 4th grade, so I have known Jason a long time." He continued, "Jason has had a great preseason. He is a smart player who knows his role, is really active on the boards, willing to defend the post, and make the extra pass. In practice, the teams he's on have played better because of his play."
The other key post reserve will be 6-5/210 Brett Chamernik, who averaged 18 points and 8 rebounds per game as a senior at Benet Academy in 2004-05. "Behind Zach, Brett has the most true post-up ability on the team," said Rose. "He has one of the the biggest bodies on the team and we need his bulk in there."
6-6 junior forward Brian Nussbaum missed all of last season after having surgery to repair a torn labrum. Two weeks ago it appeared Nussbaum, who is having trouble with a joint in the injured shoulder, would need another season (possibly career)-ending surgery. The outlook may be much more optimistic, however, and Nussbaum is going to avoid surgery for now. In fact, he may be cleared for basketball activity as early as November 20. Any more trouble in the shoulder would likely shut him down for the season though. As a senior at Homewood-Flossmoor, Nussbaum was offered basketball scholarships to Division II schools Winona State (the 2006 national champs), North Dakota, and Quincy, as well as Division I Army.
Player Profiles of Rotation Candidates
|PG/SG||Andrew Gilmore||6-3/185||So.||Stillwater, MN (Stillwater Area H.S.)|
2005-06: Played JV
High School: Team captain...averaged 16.5 points and 5 assists for a Stillwater Area team that had a 20-10 record and advanced to the Elite Eight in Class 4A, the highest classification in Minnesota...connected on 58 3-pointers his senior season and shot 40 percent from beyond the arc...all-conference selection and honorable mention all-stater…member of the Minnesota Basketball Coaches Association All-Stars series.
Ron Rose: "You talk about 'combo-guards', who can play the 1 or the 2, and that is Andrew....Has a world of potential as a perimeter player...is establishing himself as one of the leaders on the team...understands what we need to do offensively and defensively…a fierce competitor…we're going to need a big year out of Andrew both handling the basketball, understanding game situations, as well as giving us a scoring threat on the perimeter."
|SG||Mike Harrigan||6-1/185||Sr.||Oak Lawn, IL (Brother Rice H.S.)|
2005-06 Stats: Dressed varsity, not part of rotation.
2004-05: Transfered to IWU mid-season, played JV.
2003-04: An invited walk-on at Division I Loyola, played in 3 games.
High School: Team captain of 23-8 Brother Rice team...averaged 14 points, 4 rebounds per game as senior...all-Chicago Catholic League Conference selection...in IHSA record book for connecting on 7 consecutive 3-pointers in March 11, 2003 state tournament game vs St. Rita...also for consecutive 3-point field goals made in a season (10, March 11-14, 2003)...starting backcourt mate was North Carolina's Bobby Frasor.
Ron Rose: "We're counting on a big senior year from Mike, he's waited his turn…a scrappy, hard-nosed, south side of Chicago guy…learning to play to his strength, which is that outside shot…gutty kid that I know is going to give 110%....one of those guys that can take a lot of pressure off of Zach by being able to make shots."
|PG||Sean Dwyer||5-11/180||Fr.||Arlington Heights, IL (Hersey H.S.)|
High school: Team captain...averaged 14 points, 5 assists, 3 rebounds per game as senior on 19-9 team...shot 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3-point range, 76 percent at the free throw line...2.5 to 1 assist-turnover ratio...Daily Herald Player of the Year...Mid-Suburban East Player of the Year
Ron Rose: "Sean is about as hard a worker as you will ever find...spends as much or more time in the weight room than anyone...also has tremendous leadership ability...it is going to be a case where Sean will get better and better as he feels more and more comfortable with the system."
|SG||Jordan Morris||6-3/185||So.||Washington, IL (Pekin H.S.)|
2005-06 Stats: Played JV
High School: Team captain for 2 years...averaged 17.5 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists as a senior at Pekin...made 44 3-pointers...scored 1,523 points in prep career...3rd team all-state Illinois Basketball Coaches Association… Associated Press honorable mention all-state… Peoria Journal Star all-area first team…Mid-Illini all-conference player and all-conference Mid-State 6… three time all-area selection in Pekin Daily Times…team "MVP" and "Best Defense Award" winner as a senior… 1st Team Pekin Holiday all-tournament team and "Mr. Hustle" award winner .
Ron Rose: "Jordan plays extremely hard and can also really shoot it...one of his best traits is that he comes up with hustle plays….not afraid to dive on the floor for loose balls…capable of hitting shots and making things happen on the floor that will ease the tension on Zach."
|PG||Teddy Toliver||6-0/193||So.||Springfield (Southeast H.S.)|
2005-06 Stats: Played JV
High School: Team captain for 2 years...averaged 14.5 points, helped the Spartans finish 18-10 overall and second in the Central State Eight... All-State Honorable Mention… Central State Eight all-conference selection…third in scoring in Central State Eight Conference as a senior.
Ron Rose: "Really practicing well so far…gives us a real sound defensive presence…a good athlete and a competitive kid…as he learns his role and the system, will be able to develop."
|F||Andrew Freeman||6-6/200||Sr.||Bloomington, IL (Normal Community H.S.)|
2005-06 Stats: 2.1 ppg, 1.7 rpg (7 min/game)
2004-05: 4.5 ppg, 2.5 rpg (12 min/game)
2003-04: Played JV
High school: Averaged 8.4 points and 4.2 rebounds per game as senior on 24-4 Normal team...Illinois High School Association scholar and Big 12 Scholar-Athlete.
Ron Rose: "We are really expecting and needing a breakout year from Andrew…he's slowly getting more and more confident and aggressive offensively, both looking for his shot as well as taking it to the basket….in our league, at 6-6 and athletic, he can pose mismatches….we're going to count on him to be a leader and to be a guy that produces on a nightly basis…for us to win games and be competitive, he is going to have to play and play well this year...will play a lot of 3 and 4, could be a game by game decision, based on the matchups."
|F||Tyler Smith||6-5/195||Sr.||Philo, IL (Tolono Unity H.S.)|
2005-06 Stats: (averaged 2 min/game on varsity)
2004-05: Played JV
2003-04: Played JV
High school: Team captain...averaged 18.0 points, 10.8 rebounds, 3 assists per game as senior on 26-5 team...shot 40% from 3-pt range...Champaign News Gazette "Player of the Year"...IBCA 1st Team all-state Class A...3-year starter, scoring more than 1400 points...led Tolono Unity to 4th place finish in state junior year, averaging 17.1 points per game..played for Class A South in 2003 IBCA all-star game.
Ron Rose: "Another young man who has waited his turn…can make shots and make a bunch of them in a short period of time…one of our best shooters, if not our best…has good size at the 3 and is going to play a very key role on the team this season."
|C||Zach Freeman||6-7/210||SR||Bloomington, IL (Normal Community H.S.)|
2005-06: 16.2 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 185-309 FG (.599), named to 2nd Team All-CCIW
2004-05: 14.2 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 107-194 FG (.552), named to 2nd Team All-CCIW
2003-04: 11.4 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 114-213 FG (.535), named to 3rd Team All-CCIW
High school: Lettered three years in basketball and was team's MVP as a senior when he averaged 14.2 points and 7.4 rebounds for 24-4 squad… shot 62 per cent from field…Pantagraph All-area...1st Team all-Big 12 Conference.
Ron Rose: "A special talent…has all the tools to have an All-American type year….he scores inside in a variety of ways, he can hit the mid-range jumpshot, he rebounds, he is a great athlete, explosive jumper…now he is a team leader…going to get a lot of attention from opponents, but what they are going to find is that he's awfully tough to guard because he is active, can score over the top of you, but he also is a very good passer…the impressive thing about Zach is that, with all of his credentials, he has no ego…he is respected and well-liked by his teammates."
|F||Darius Gant||6-4/205||Jr.||Oswego, IL (H.S.)|
2005-06: Played JV
2004-05: Played JV
High school: Team captain...averaged 15.7 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 2 steals per game at Oswego as senior...earned four basketball letters for the Panthers…two-time all-area in Aurora Beacon News...three-time all-Suburban Prairie Conference selection.
Ron Rose: "Tremendous athlete...he has a world of potential…he is going to have the opportunity to display his talents…the key for Darius is to be active and assertive…we challenge him in practice to touch the ball as many times as possible, whether it is offensive rebounds, running the floor, defense…he has a lot of gifts and if he brings the right attitude to the table, he's going to have a good year for us."
|F||Jason Bloom||6-5/190||Jr.||Bloomington, IL (Normal Community H.S.)|
2005-06: Played JV
2004-05: Played JV
High school: At Normal, averaged 8 points, 5 rebounds, led team in assists (123) and steals (54) for 22-8 team...as junior played with Z. Freeman, A. Freeman, and Adam Krumtinger (North Central).
Ron Rose: "Does a little bit of everything…will never hurt you because he's gonna play hard and be smart...doesn't just understand his role, he sees what other peoples' roles are and helps them become better…a deceptive athlete…has long arms and keeps balls alive."
|F||Brett Chamernik||6-5/210||So.||Naperville, IL (Benet Academy)|
2005-06: Played JV
High school: Captain in both basketball and football...averaged 18.3 points and 8.1 rebounds, shot 52% from the field as senior at Benet Academy...1st Team Naperville Sun all-city team for two years ...All-East Suburban Catholic...twice East Suburban Catholic Conference scoring leader…named to Daily Herald all-area team twice…won four letters in both football and basketball.
Ron Rose: "Behind Zach Freeman, he has the most true post-up ability on the team…has the biggest body on the team, we need his bulk in there…he can do a lot of the dirty work inside in defending the post, boxing out, screening…is a good mid-range jump shooter."
|F||Brian Nussbaum||6-6/225||Jr.||Homewood-Flossmoor H.S.|
2005-06: Injured (surgery to repair torn labrum)
2004-05: Played JV, averaged 17.5 points/game to lead team
High school: Team captain...averaged 7.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists for team that finished 31-3 and 2nd in state class AA tournament...high school teammates included Julian Wright (Kansas), Cyrus Tate (Iowa), and Excell Hardy (Quincy)… three-year varsity starter…two-time honorable mention SICA East all-conference and all-area…team's defensive player of the year as a senior...earned three basketball letters and one in baseball.
Ron Rose: "Brian really wants to get out there, so we hope for his sake his shoulder gets better...we can really use Brian's size in the post....he is a 'do it all' kind of player...a good defender and good passer and also someone who can score from 15 feet or around the basket...good basketball instincts."
Illinois Wesleyan has always played a very strong non-conference schedule, and this year will be no exception. 10 of 11 possible non-conference opponents won 15 or more games last season. Zach Freeman thinks IWU's scheduling philosophy is sound. "You don't start your season off by playing a bunch of cupcakes," he said. "You start your season off by working hard and playing the type of teams you are going to play in the CCIW and in the playoffs. I love our schedule every year."
IWU fans should know their way to the site of the Titan's first two games -- Kachel Gymnasium on the campus of UW-Whitewater. It was here that IWU defeated Carroll 81-68 on March 3, 2006 and the host Warhawks 85-71 the next night to claim a regional title in the 2006 Division III tournament. The Titans will face Clarke College (17-10, 11-1 NIIC) of Dubuque, Iowa in the first round of the UW-Whitewater Tip-Off Tourney. This is Clarke's final year as an NCAA Division III institution. In the wake of the breakup of the Northern Illinois-Iowa Conference, the Crusaders are joining the NAIA's Midwest Cathlolic Conference, beginning in 2007-08. Last season, Clarke won the NIIC with an impressive 11-1 record. In non-conference play, they lost to CCIW champion Augustana by 6 points, Wheaton by 1, and defeated then defending national champion UW-Stevens Point.
On Saturday, November 18, the Titans will either play in the consolation or championship game, versus Martin Luther (MN) (9-16, 7-7 UMAC) or UW-Whitewater (18-5, 13-3 WIAC). In 2005-06, the host Warhawks won the regular season and conference tournament titles in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC), considered the best men's basketball league in Division III. Whitewater is expected to do the same again, recently picked as the 2006-07 WIAC favorite. 6-8 junior center Andy Freund (9.6 ppg, 5.7 rpg) powers the Warhawks, who are rated #4 in the D3hoops.com preseason Top 25.
A quick turnaround has the Titans hosting Illinois College (8-15, 4-12 MWC) on Tuesday, November 21 before heading to the Hoosier state for DePauw's Mike Rokicki Community Versus Cancer Challenge the weekend of the 24th. In the opening round, Illinois Wesleyan will square off against the Bishops of Ohio Wesleyan (18-9, 12-4 NCAC), featuring 6-4 senior Ben Chojnacki (12.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg). The other side of the bracket has DePauw (15-13, 8-6 SCAC) facing NAIA Judson. The host Tigers are led by 6-6/225 junior Stephen Schott (14.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg).
A pair of NAIA Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference foes will be next up for the Titans. On Tuesday, November 28 IWU will travel to the south side of Chicago to face St. Xavier (21-12, 8-4 CCAC) in the sparkling Shannon Center. 6-7/220 Dan Bolger keys the Cougars, who qualified for the NAIA national tournament last season. A week later, it's off to Bourbonnais for the annual tilt versus Olivet Nazarene (23-11, 11-1 CCAC). Normal West's Stan Chismark (15.1 ppg, 6.2 rpg) was tabbed an NAIA 2nd Team All-American by Street & Smith's magazine. The Tigers also feature 6-7/217 junior Phil French (11.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg).
Then two familiar University Athletic Association programs will visit the Shirk Center on consecutive December Saturdays. Washington U. (17-8, 9-5 UAA) is poised for another solid season behind 6-6/235 junior Troy Ruths (16.6 ppg, 7.2 rpg) and 6-6/200 sophomore Tyler Nading (9.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg). On the 16th, Mike McGrath's U. of Chicago (15-10, 8-6 UAA) Maroons will feature the returning backcourt of Jesse Meyer (12.5 ppg, 4.4 rpg) and Brandon Woodhead (10.8 ppg, 4.5 apg), as well as highly-regarded freshman guard Jake Pancratz.
The annual rivalry with Hanover (16-10, 9-5 HCAC) continues on Tuesday, December 19 in southern Indiana. Just as IWU lost most of its firepower to graduation, the Panthers are rebuilding as well. Gone are stars Brian Chrin, Ben Lye, and Nate Minyard. The 2006-07 Panther roster features 13 freshman to go along with key returnees Clint Parker (10.3 ppg) and 6-7/221 Robby Brown (8.1 ppg/6.8 rpg).
So where for the holidays? Hawaii? California? Florida? This year, the Titans will enjoy the tropical December climates of Bloomington, Illinois. With no snowbird trip in 2006-07, the Titans will host MIAA power Albion (20-6, 10-4 MIAA) on Saturday, December 30 in the final tune-up before CCIW play. Albion has turned into a major player in the Great Lakes region, registering 20 or more victories for 4 consecutive seasons. 6-3 senior guard Zachary Silas (12.0 ppg) is the returning leading scorer on a squad that graduated 1st Team All-American center Brandon Crawford (22.1 ppg, 11.3 rpg).
College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin
Four D3hoops.com All-Americans graduated from the CCIW in 2006 - 1st Teamers Adam Dauksas and Keelan Amelianovich (IWU), 2nd Team selection Rick Harrigan (Augustana) and Elmhurst's Chris Martin, a member of the 3rd Team. And as good as Illinois Wesleyan, Augustana, and Elmhurst were behind this players, none entered the 2006 NCAA Division III tournament as the CCIW's automatic qualifier. North Central won the first-ever CCIW tournament to earn that right, while IWU and Augustana made the field as at-large teams. IWU carried the CCIW flag to Salem, Virginia, where the Titans placed 3rd nationally.
Despite the loss of these stars, the CCIW should be strong yet again as a group of outstanding returnees meets some promising newcomers.
"The league is going to be really tough, as always," said Rose. "The CCIW is just like it was when I played here - it is a battle every night out, no matter who you are playing. It is one of the best Division III basketball leagues in the country."
6-7 low post player Zach Freeman is excited about what he predicts will be a focus on his specialty area in the CCIW this year. "There will be even more emphasis on the play in the paint," said Freeman. "A lot of teams have really good big guys returning and their question marks are about guard play. It is going to be fun."
|2006 CCIW Finish||2006-07 Coaches Poll|
|Augustana 11-3||North Central 47 (5)|
|Illinois Wesleyan 9-5||Augustana 42 (2)|
|North Central 9-5||Elmhurst 34|
|Elmhurst 9-5||Wheaton 33 (1)|
|Wheaton 7-7||Illinois Wesleyan 28|
|Carthage 6-8||Millikin 18|
|Millikin 3-11||Carthage 15|
|North Park 2-12||North Park 7|
North Central is picked as the league favorite, and Freeman doesn't argue with the selection. "They are a very solid team," he said. "They are going to need someone to step up at the guard spots, but those 3 guys [Daniel Walton, Anthony Simmons, Adam Krumtinger] are really good and they have all played for 3 years."
When asked which CCIW players he enjoys facing, Zach Freeman noted two in particular. "Dain Swetalla [Augustana] is always a handful to guard and so is Nick Michael from Elmhurst," he said. "Sometimes with those guys you are going back and forth and you can't stop each other, or there are times where you are just battling so hard that neither can score. That kind of competition is what it is all about."
North Central's Anthony Simmons
2005-06 record: 23-6 overall, 11-3 CCIW (1st)
Starters lost: Rick Harrigan (22.2 ppg, CCIW M.O.P.), Jay McAdams-Thorton (13.6 ppg, 5.0 ppg)
Starters returning: Dain Swetalla (9.6 ppg, 6.9 rpg), Nate Swetalla (6.5 ppg, 3.9 rpg), Drew Wessels (5.2 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 3.2 apg)
Impact newcomers: Matt Pelton (6-1/185, Fr.)
Projected Starting Lineup:
G Drew Wessels (6-1/172, Sr.)
G Pat Brusveen (6-2/174, Jr.) or Jordan Delp (6-0,165, Jr)
F Nate Swetalla (6-7/202, Sr.)
F Shaun Rose (6-6/215, Sr) or Oliver Rorer (6-5/200, Jr.)
C Dain Swetalla (6-9/230, Jr.)
Through consistent recruiting and a strong system - built around tough, hard-nosed defense, Grey Giovanine and staff put a CCIW title contender on the floor almost every year. The Vikings have averaged over 10 conference wins per year the last 4 seasons, including an 11-3 finish in 2005-06. This season shouldn't be any different, despite the loss of CCIW M.O.P. Rick Harrigan and 2nd Team All-CCIW performer Jay McAdams-Thorton. Augustana has a strong nucleus, featuring senior point-guard, and 3-year starter, Drew Wessels, 6-9 Dain Swetalla in the low post, and his 6-7 brother Nate, who plays small forward. Augie will miss McAdams-Thorton, but should be strong again at the 4 with Shaun Rose or Oliver Rorer. 6-2 sophomore Alex Washington is emerging as a promising wing player off the bench and 6-9/236 Dan Rukavina will back D. Swetalla up at the 5. It's Harrigan's vacated position (shooting guard) that's the biggest question heading into the season. The Pat Brusveen/Jordan Delp combo will have to knock down 3's consistently for this team to repeat as CCIW champs. Freshman Matt Pelton may work himself into the rotation as Wessel's backup by CCIW time.
2005-06 record: 10-15 overall, 6-8 CCIW (6th)
Starters lost: Kyle Jeffery (18.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg), Keena Johnson (8.6 ppg), Malik Imani (7.5 ppg)
Starters returning: Trey Bowens (13.8 ppg, 2.1 rpg), Scott Hood (4.7 ppg, 1.2 rpg)
Impact newcomers: Milos Vukosavljevic (6-4/210, Jr.) - transfer from Rock Valley College, Joe Higgins (6-0/170, So.) - transfer from Marquette (didn't play basketball)
Projected Starting Lineup:
G Joe Higgins (6-0/170, So.)
G Trey Bowens (6-1/165, Jr.)
G Bill Shemerdiak (6-4/195, So.)
F Milos Vukosavljevic (6-4/210, Jr.)
F/C Brian Schlemm (6-7/240, Sr.)
Rock Valley College transfer Milos Vukosavljevic (pronounced Mee-losh Vook-o-sahveo-vich) should give Bosko Djurickovic's Red Men a lift this season. Kyle Jeffery, last year's leading scorer, is now at UW-Parkside, so this Carthage team will have a totally new identity. 6-7/240 Brian Schlemm has struggled as a CCIW player since transfering from the Air Force Academy, but has the tools to be an all-conference performer. Trey Bowens (13.8 ppg - 13 games last year) was ruled academicially ineligible midway through last season, but is back and ready to go. Bowens is a very talented guard with a big upside. Expect transfer Joe Higgins to play a key role at the point for the Red Men. Much like the last few seasons, chemistry will be the key for Bosko's club -- the pieces haven't all fit together for Carthage since Antoine McDaniel & Co. graduated in 2003.
2005-06 record: 17-9 overall, 9-5 CCIW (T 2nd)
Starters lost: Chris Martin (20.9 ppg, 7.6 rpg), Chris Ihlenfeldt (7.1 ppg)
Starters returning: Nick Michael (13.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg), Brent Ruch (8.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg), Brian Lee (7.0 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 3.8 apg)
Impact newcomers: Matt Ryder (guard)
Projected Starting Lineup:
G Brian Lee (5-10/185, Sr.)
G Ryan Burks (6-4/180, So.)
F Robert Strzemp (6-4/230, So.)
F Brent Ruch (6-9/255, So.)
C Nick Michael (6-10/230, Sr.)
Like North Central, Elmhurst returns a fantastic frontcourt. 6-10 Nick Michael has improved each season and is now one of the premier post players in the CCIW. Enormous sophomore Brent Ruch (6-9/255) looks poised to become the next superstar post player in the league. Ruch's 23-point performace at Illinois Wesleyan (10-12 FG) might be a sign of things to come for the Farmer City native. With 6-9/255 and 6-10/230 in the starting lineup, this Elmhurst team looks more like a Missouri Valley squad than a CCIW. The 'jays have to replace the production of their do-it-all superstar Chris Martin (20.9 ppg, 7.6 rpg). Sophomore Ryan Burks will be expected to provide a perimeter threat, Brian Lee will once again handle point-guard duties, and talented 6-4 swing-man Robert Strzemp should have a solid sophomore season. Elmhurst should be right in the middle of the CCIW title picture.
2005-06 record: 25-7 overall, 9-5 CCIW (T 2nd), Final Four (3rd place)
Starters lost: Keelan Amelianovich (18.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg), Adam Dauksas (13.6 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 6.4 apg), Cory Jones (8.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg), Jason Fisher (5.1 ppg, 2.2 rpg)
Starters returning: Zach Freeman (16.2 ppg, 7.6 rpg)
Impact newcomers: Sean Dwyer (5-11/180, Fr.)
Projected Starting Lineup:
G Andrew Gilmore (6-3/185, So.)
G Mike Harrigan (6-1/185, Sr.)
F Andrew Freeman (6-6/200, Sr.)
F Darius Gant (6-4/205, Jr.)
C Zach Freeman (6-7/210, Sr.)
2005-06 record: 10-15 overall, 3-11 CCIW (7th)
Starters lost: Lance Brooks (9.1 ppg, 3.5 rpg), Reid Jones (8.5 ppg, 1.9 rpg)
Starters returning: Drew Gensler (17.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 3.9 apg), Korte Long (12.6 ppg, 9.2 rpg), Keanon Harrington (4.4 ppg, 3.0 rpg )
Impact newcomers: Robert Rexroade (6-8 Fr.), Zach Ott (6-7 Fr.) Joscar Demby (6-7 Fr.)
Projected Starting Lineup:
G Drew Gensler (6-0 So.)
G Keanon Harrington (6-0 Jr.) or Bryon Graven (6-2 Sr.)
F Mike Gavic (6-5 Sr.)
F Robert Rexroade (6-8 Fr.) or Zach Ott (6-7 Fr.) or Joscar Demby (6-7 Fr.)
F Korte Long (6-6 Sr.)
Much like North Park, Millikin is starting to put the pieces together. Tim Littrell's point-guard Drew Gensler had a fantastic freshman season in 2005-06, scoring 17.8 per game. Gensler, who turned down a scholarship to Division II Lewis to become a Big Blue, enters this year as one of the best guards in the CCIW. Athletic Korte Long (12.6 ppg, 9.2 rpg) returns for his senior season and should do a lot of damage on both ends of the floor. The Big Blue freshmen class is stocked with great size, including Robert Rexroade (6-8 Fr.), Zach Ott (6-7 Fr.) Joscar Demby (6-7 Fr.), who may all see time in 2006-07. If you are looking for a sleeper to make the CCIW tournament, this may be it.
2005-06 record: 22-6 overall, 9-5 CCIW (T 2)
Starters lost: Ray Vicario (11.6 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 2.9 apg), Adam Teising (8.1 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 4.5 apg)
Starters returning: Anthony Simmons (18.5 ppg, 6.6 rpg), Dan Walton (16.7 ppg, 7.1 rpg), Adam Krumtinger (10.3 ppg, 6.2 rpg)
Projected Starting Lineup:
G Raymond Lawrence (5-11/165, Sr.)
G Bob Valker (6-2/170, Sr.)
F Daniel Walton (6-5/180, Sr.)
F Anthony Simmons (6-6/225, Sr.)
C Adam Krumtinger (6-7/220, Sr.)
Todd Raridon's Cardinals are the preseason CCIW favorites for good reason. They return a starting frontline that combined to average 46 points and 20 rebounds in 2005-06, shooting 510-895 (.570) as a group. North Central has two legitimate M.O.P. candidates at the forward positions -- 6-5 Daniel Walton and 6-6 Anthony Simmons. 6-7 center Adam Krumtinger does all the dirty work, while chipping in offensively as needed. The obvious question with this squad is the backcourt. The steady and efficient duo of Ray Vicario and Adam Teising is gone, leaving a gaping hole at the guard spots. While freshmen Brandon Smith and Reid Barringer comprise the Cardinal backcourt of the future and figure to get significant minutes this year, it appears Raridon will start seniors Raymond Lawrence and Bob Valker. Sophomore Dean Prince, the team's best perimeter defender, will also factor into the guard rotation. Chris Drennan (7.4 ppg, 3.2 rpg) had a very good freshman season coming off the bench for North Central, and once again should be one of the best 6th men in the CCIW.
2005-06 record: 4-21 overall, 2-12 CCIW (8th)
Starters lost: Brett Mathisen (13.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg), Bjorn Berg
Starters returning: Jay Alexander, Mike Ventura, Keith Willert
Impact newcomers: Glen Woodside (6-8/215, Fr.) - medical redshirt last year, Stephano Jones (6-4/230, So.) - transfer from Lincoln College, Anthony Lenoir (6-6/215, Sr.) - transfer from Western Illinois, Sheldon Evans (5-11/175, Jr.) - transfer from Lincoln College, Dan Oziminski (6-0/185, Fr.), Joe Capolbo (5-11/165, Fr.), Nick Williams (6-5/185, Fr.), Antonio Stevens (6-2/185, Fr.), Mike Church (6-4/190, Jr.) - transfer from UW-Rock County.
Projected Starting Lineup:
G Sheldon Evans (5-11/175, Jr.)
G Jason Gordon (6-3/200, Jr.)
F Mike Church (6-4/190, Jr.)
F Jay Alexander (6-6/185, Jr.)
F Anthony Lenoir (6-6/215, Sr.)
North Park has finished 8th in the CCIW the last four seasons, but there are definite signs of life in the program under third-year head coach Paul Brenegan. The Vikings will have more newcomers contribute than any other team in the league in 2006-07. Lincoln College transfer Sheldon Evans, the starting point-guard on Aurora West's 2004 IHSA Class AA 3rd place finisher, will run the point for North Park while Western Illinois transfer Anthony Lenoir will provide a solid inside presence. 6-4 UW-Rock County transfer Mike Church will be a key perimeter threat when on the floor. 6-8 Glen Woodside (medical redshirt last year) is still dealing with some knee trouble, but should see time. Four other freshmen will also see the floor - guards Dan Oziminski and Joe Capalbo and forwards Nick Williams and Antonio Stevens. These players will join returnees Jason Gordon (injured last year) and Jay Alexander to form what should be a much improved North Park squad.
2005-06 record: 11-14 overall, 7-7 CCIW (5th)
Starters lost: Tony Bollier (15.9 ppg), Jordan Kemper (10.8 ppg, 7.9 rpg)
Starters returning: Kent Raymond (15.9 ppg as freshman in 2004-05), John Mohan (13.0 ppg, 3.1 rpg), Michael Fiddler (9.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg), Andy Wiele (9.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg)
Impact newcomers: Ben Panner (6-3/170, Fr.), Matt Ankeny (6-5/230, So.) - transfer from Seattle Pacific, Brad Smith (6-5/222, Fr.)
Projected Starting Lineup:
G Kent Raymond (6-3/190, So.)
G Ben Panner (6-3/170, Fr.)
F Johnnie Standard (6-4/205, Sr.)
F Michael Fiddler (6-6/190, Sr.)
C Andy Wiele (6-8/225, So.)
This is a team talented enough and well-coached enough to win the CCIW this season. After taking a year off from basketball, former freshman sensation Kent Raymond is back. Raymond draws fair comparisons to former Illinois Wesleyan All-American guard Korey Coon. 6-8/225 sophomore Andy Wiele, who can score around the basket but also loves to shoot the 3, should have a breakout season. 6-6 Michael Fiddler gives Wheaton more nice size in the paint, while Johnnie Standard is a good all-around performer. Two new faces should really provide a spark for this squad. 6-3 shooting-guard Ben Panner, a transfer from U. of Texas where he was invited to walk-on but did not, should be a very good CCIW player. The Raymond/Panner backcourt may be the league's best. Also expect big things off the bench from 6-5/230 Matt Ankeny. Don't be surprised if Wheaton enters the 2007 CCIW conference tournament as a 2-seed.
|Bob Quillman's Preseason All-CCIW Team
Zach Freeman, Illinois Wesleyan
Drew Gensler, Millikin
Kent Raymond, Wheaton
Anthony Simmons, North Central
Daniel Walton, North Central
So where exactly does all of this leave us in terms of the 2006-07 season? Well, basically with a whole bunch of questions, of course. For what it's worth, my 4 biggies are:
1) Can the Titans effecitively guard big, strong post players in the paint? The CCIW is loaded with good big guys - 6-9 D. Swetalla at Augustana, Elmhurst's 6-9 Ruch and 6-10 Michael, the entire frontline of North Central, 6-6 Fiddler and 6-8 Wiele at Wheaton, and others. Can the Titans guard opposing bigs with 6-7 Zach Freeman, 6-6 Andrew Freeman, 6-4 Darius Gant, 6-5 Jason Bloom, and 6-5 Brett Chamernik? (This is where IWU really can use a healthy Brian Nussbaum.)
2) Will Ron Rose and staff be able to manage personnel delicately enough to keep Z. Freeman, A. Freeman, and D. Gant out of foul trouble, yet on the floor as much as possible? It is no secret that these 3 - especially Z. Freeman - are going to have to be on the floor as many minutes as possible for this team to contend for a CCIW title.
3) Will Andrew Freeman and Darius Gant have big years? If the answer is yes, the 2006-07 Titans are going to be very good -- Gant and Freeman are two of the key players who can take heat off of Zach Freeman. IWU needs to have consistent performances out of A. Freeman and Gant, where each maximizes their athletic ability on both ends of the floor.
4) Will Bloom and Chamernik (and Nussbaum if healthy) provide quality minutes off the bench? The most critical minutes of each game may be when Zach Freeman heads to the bench to get a breather or due to foul trouble. The post players who come in will need to play well while in there. Bloom and Chamernik are undersized (each 6-5) relative to the horses in the CCIW, and certainly neither is a true 5.
"We have a lot of question marks, said Rose. "We're going to have to play good basketball -- we're not going to just role the ball out there and physically beat good teams this year."
He continued, "Offensively we have to have a sense of purpose and we need contributions from guys who haven't been in that position before. Defensively we are going to have to be a scrappy group and play with urgency every possession. The margin for error isn't what it was last year when they had more depth -- we're going to have to get loose balls, box out, and be fundamentally solid on the defensive end to get stops."
Zach Freeman points to an intangible as the key to the season for IWU. "This year more than ever, in order for us to be successful, playing as a team is going to be key," he said. "Being there for each other, picking each other up...we are all going to make mistakes, even more so this year because of the inexperience, but that team concept has to be there."
Freeman smiled and said, "And you know, being the underdog for once will be kind of fun."
We'll see everyone at the Shirk Center and on the road with the Titans. Best of luck to Ron Rose and the 2006-07 Illinois Wesleyan Titans!
- Bob Quillman (IWU '93)