Young, talented cast ready to shine in 100th year of Titan basketball

The 2008-09 Illinois Wesleyan Season Preview

November 14, 2008

by Bob Quillman,

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All-CCIW guard Sean Johnson returns to the Titans for '08-09


Season Schedule, Links to All Opponents   2007-08 Stats - Top 25 poll
Roster Recruiting 2008 - Class of 2012
2007-08 Schedule, Results The Shirk Center - Home of the Titans (official school site)

Past Season Previews:  2007-08    2006-07     2005-06     2004-05    2003-04     2002-03     2001-02     2000-01  

Getting started


After 99 seasons, the men's basketball team at Illinois Wesleyan is 1447-818. Among current NCAA Division III programs, that win total is second only to Ohio powers Wittenberg (1575-628) and Wooster (1472-750). As the Titans prepare for the school's 100th season on the hardwood, third-year head coach Ron Rose seems confident and excited to get 2008-09 underway.

"Two years in, having recruited the majority of these guys, there is certainly a different comfort level," said Rose. "There is also a sense of building. We took a big step last year and there is hunger to take the next step."

Leading up to the 2007-08 season, Illinois Wesleyan was picked to finish 7th in the annual CCIW Preseason Coaches Poll. It was considered a fair assessment by most, as the Titans were embarking on what was basically to be a full-scale rebuilding process and expected to play several freshmen.

The Titans surprised many by finishing tied for second in the CCIW (9-5), and entering the final week of the league slate in contention for the title. Rose's squad defeated Wheaton in the conference tournament semifinal game before falling to Augustana in the championship. IWU finished 16-11 overall and was led by senior Darius Gant, who had a terrific season (12.9 ppg, 9.5 rpg) and earned 1st Team All-CCIW honors. Junior Brett Chamernik started all 27 games, averaging 10.8 points and 5.4 rebounds while shooting 59% from the field. As expected, a number of freshmen played key rolls, including starting guards Sean Johnson (11.6 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 2.7 apg, 60 3-pointers made) and Travis Rosenkranz (9.6 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 3.3 apg), and 6-7 forward Doug Sexauer (7.6 ppg, 3.1 rpg, .497 FG) who was an important reserve.

The expectations have changed heading into the 2008-09 campaign - Illinois Wesleyan is rated #18 in the preseason poll.

"Expectations don't change the way we go about our business," Rose said. "Last year we were picked 7th in the CCIW, but we never planned to finish there. We had a great work ethic and great chemistry and we hope to do those same things this year. We don't plan on finishing 4th this year."

Yet, it's clear Rose is glad his Titans are considered one the top 18 programs in Division III heading into the season.

"At Illinois Wesleyan the expectation to compete for conference championships has been there almost every year, but we haven't really felt that my first two years here," he explained. "I am very excited to be back in the position to have those expectations."

Dealing with tragedy

The Illinois Wesleyan basketball family was devastated last spring after the tragic passing of Titan basketball player Kevin Bryant ('08) on June 8.  Bryant was involved in a rafting accident in Colorado on June 2 and the fierce competitor was not able to battle back from those injuries.

"It is something that is going to be with these young men and the coaches forever," said Rose.  "He will have a lasting impact on our team and our program."

Rose says it is obvious Bryant is on his players' minds. "I hear 'KB' references in practice, most having to do with how hard he played," he said.  "I know they are thinking about him and that he is with us."

The team is finalizing plans to memorialize Kevin Bryant in a number of ways this season.

Moving forward, putting the pieces together

After back-to-back stellar recruiting classes, Rose has the IWU cupboard stocked with young talent at every position. Sorting out that young talent, and blending it with the upperclassmen, has been an extensive process since day one of practice in October.

"We have great depth and great competition at each position," said Rose. "Guys understand that if you don't show up mentally to a practice one day, someone else is going to pass you by."

It is clear in talking to Rose that with a week to go before talking the floor, there are still numerous rotation decisions still to make.

"Things are starting to sort themselves out, but who I'd start today and who I'll start November 21 might be two different things," he said. "I expect the evaluation process to continue playing out through the non-conference season, and I don't consider that a bad thing."

Unfortunately the Titans have been without one of their key returnees the entire practice season.  Senior co-captain Brett Chamernik is suffering from a stress fracture in one of his feet and is expected to miss at least a few games.

"Brett is doing light impact drills now and slowly getting back into it," said Rose.  "He is taking it slow so it's something we don't deal with it the whole season."

So as Ron Rose and the Titans try to put all of the pieces together for the 2008-09 season, we present the annual Season Preview.  Below are profiles for the cast of the 100th season of Illinois Wesleyan basketball. Following are thoughts on the non-conference schedule, a preview of the 2009 College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin picture, and some final thoughts. Enjoy!

The 2008-09 Cast

Listed by year, then alphabetically.  

Point Guard

G Sean Dwyer 5-10/175 Jr. Arlington Heights, IL (Hersey H.S.)

2007-08: Came back from injury to play in 19 games, starting in 11...averaged 5.5 points, 2.2 rebounds, and 1.7 assists in 23 minutes per game

2006-07: Was injured in IWU's second game at UW-Whitewater (broken foot) and missed the rest of the season.

High school: 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: "A co-captain this year (with Brett Chamernik)...tremendous leadership skills and tremendous understanding of team dynamics...actually had a preseason this year (after being hurt most of his freshman season through Christmas last year)...has had the benefit of preparation this of our top us a bulldog on the defensive end in terms of getting through screens and being tenacious...not afraid to get dirty...brings a real physicality to the team."

G Michael Kempf 5-11/175 So. Arlington Heights, IL (Hersey H.S.)

2007-08: Played on the JV team

High school: Earned 3 letters in basketball and 2 in soccer at Hersey, where he was named Male Athlete of the Year as senior...holds Hersey school record for 3-pointers made...named to Daily Herald All-Area team.

Ron Rose: "A scrapper...has good quickness and ball-handling ability and is a good shooter...comes to practice everyday ready to compete and push the guys he is matched up against."

G Travis Rosenkranz 6-0/175 So. Macon, IL (Meridian H.S.)

2007-08: Played in all 27 games, starting 24...averaged 9.6 points, 2.9 rebounds, 3.3 assists...scored 20 points in conference tournament win over Wheaton

High school:  Averaged 24.9 points, 5.8 assists, and 4.4 steals as a senior...shot 57% from the field, 42% from 3, 84% from the FT line...1st Team all-state IBCA...2nd Team all-state AP...fifth all-time in Illinois high school basketball in assists, sixth all-time in steals...pre-med major at IWU.

Ron Rose: "Getting the benefit this year of having a preseason...last year had to sit out the entire preseason (due to injury), leading up to the first game...he wasn't really 100% until the end of the year...this year he comes in feeling great and you can just tell there is a different confidence level...brings quickness and ball-handling on perimeter and the ability to create shots for himself and teamates...also brings a steadying influenc3 and leadership."

G Eliud Gonzalez 5-9/159 Fr. Oak Lawn, IL (Richards H.S.)

High school: As senior was staring PG on IHSA Class 4A state champion Richards H.S. team...averaged 7.4 ppg and 6.2 apg...9 points, 5 assists, 3 steals in title game vs Zion-Benton...203 total assits on the season.

Ron Rose: "A floor general...starting point-guard for the 4A state champs, Richards High School...he ran the show for their team...has shown early in practice the ability to run a basketball team...has great quickness, both with the basketball in his hands and in guarding the ball and putting pressure on it.  He can play."

Shooting Guard

G Jordan Morris 6-3/200 Sr. Washington, IL (Pekin H.S.)

2007-08: Played in all 27 games, started 16...averaged 8.3 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.1 assists...41-113 3-pt (.363)

2006-07: 5.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg in 23 varsity games...started 7.

2005-06 Stats: 9.1 ppg as JV player.

High School: 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: "The first word I think of is 'hustle'...a ball of energy on the floor...he is a scrapper that makes hustle players...also one of our top outside shooters."

G Sean Johnson 6-1/185 So. Washington, IL (H.S.)

2007-08: Started all 27 games...averaged 11.6 points, 2.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists...60-160 3-pt (.375)...named 3rd Team All-CCIW

High school: Scored 18.3 points per game, averaged 3.1 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 2.0 steals...made 75 3-pointers, shot 45% from 3...scored 35 points in final H.S. game, a sectional loss to Peoria Richwoods...3rd Team all-state IBCA...Peoria Journal Star all-area team.

Ron Rose: "Had a tremendous freshman season, earning 3rd Team all-conference I think of Sean, I think of how hard he competes and his desire to win...the bigger the moment the better he plays and the bigger the shot, the more likely it is to go in...when the game is on the line, you want Sean on the floor."

G Stephen Rudnicki 6-3/160 Fr. Evanston H.S.

High school: As senior led Evanston to IHSA Class 4A 3rd Place finish...averaged 9.8 points, 3.1 rebounds, 4.3 assists for 30-4 Wildcits.

Ron Rose: "A tall, long, skilled perimeter player that really sees the floor...has a great ability to pass the ball...hope he brings his knack for clutch shots and thriving in pressure situations."

G Sean Seibring 6-2/180 Fr. Normal West H.S.

High school: As senior averaged 12 points per game...made 10-man Bloomington Pantagraph All-Area 1st Team...1st Team All-Big 12.

Ron Rose: "A young man that understands the tradition of Titan basketball, having seen hundreds of games growing up...a good athlete...a good outside shooter...very hard worker...will see his game improve as he adjusts to the quickness of the college game."

Small Forward

G/F Matt Schick 6-4/200 So. Lincoln, IL (H.S.)

2007-08: Played in all 27 games, started 3...averaged 3.0 points, 1.7 rebounds, 1.1 assists in 14 minutes per game.

High school: Four-year starter at Lincoln where teams went 109-26 (.807)...two trips to Class AA state tournament in Peoria...part of 33-win team as senior...averaged 13.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 2.4 steals as senior...Pantagraph All-Area...3rd Team All-State IBCA...all-time leader in games played at Lincoln (135)...#2 on all-time Lincoln assist list (210)...#2 on all-time Lincoln 3-point field goals made list (232).

Ron Rose: "Matt is a winner...can do a little of everything...his man-to-man defense is greatly improved this year and his confidence in his shot is better...high I.Q.-type basketball player that is willing to make the extra pass and do the small things to help the team win."

F Josh Sutton 6-5/215 So. Lincoln, IL (H.S.)

2007-08: Primarily played on the JV team....played limited minutes in 10 varsity games, averaging 1.9 points and 2.0 rebounds

High school: Lincoln teammate of Matt Schick...part of 33-win team that made it to Class AA tournament in Peoria as senior, averaged 8.4 points per game, 4.9 rebounds (led team), shot 53% from the field...Special Mention Class AA All-State IBCA.

Ron Rose: "Slowed in the off-season by foot surgery...exceptional outside shooter and good rebounder...he is adding pieces to his game...has a lot of basketball talent and skills, it is just a matter of putting it all together."

G/F Jordan Zimmer 6-5/185 Fr. Delavan, IL (H.S.)

High school: As senior, averaged 23.0 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 1.7 steals...led Delavan to 28-4 record and Regional title...123-293 3-pt (.420)...125-237 FT (.913)...scored 44 points in final high school game vs Putnam County...named "Best Defensive Player" on team that allowed 45.7 ppg...named 1st Team AP 1A all-state, 1st Team Chicago Sun-Times all-state, 1st Team IBCA all-state,  1st Team IHSS all-state, 1st Team IBS small school all-state, 1st Team Bloomington Pantagraph all-area, Pekin Times Player of the Year, Peoria Journal Star Player of the Year

Ron Rose: "I've been really pleased with his work ethic...loves to play the game of basketball and has spent countless hours honing his skills...tremendous outside shooter...has shown a lot of toughness in practice...a young man who does exactly what you ask him to do....competes at a very high level."

Power Forward

F Duncan Lawson 6-7/230 So. Glen Ellyn, (Glenbard West H.S.)

2007-08: Primarily played on the JV team...played in 15 varsity games, averaging 2.4 points and 1.6 rebounds in limited time.

High school: As senior, averaged 11 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists for 22-8 Glenbard West team that made Super-sectional round...shot 40% from 3.

Ron Rose: "One of our most improved players...last year he got his feet wet and towards the end of the season showed a lot of progress in terms of understanding his ability to step out but also to go inside...has really improved his ability to go inside and score or pass from the post...very versatile player who we need to utilize."

F Doug Sexauer 6-7/210 So Homer Glen, IL (Lockport Township H.S.)

2007-08: Came off bench in all 27 games...averaged 7.6 points and 3.1 rebounds...shot .497 from field and .375 from 3 (12-32).

High school: As senior, averaged 10.5 points and 5 rebounds per game for 22-8 Lockport team that made Class AA tournament in Peoria...3rd Team All-State IBCA...54.7% FG.

Ron Rose: "Had a very solid freshman year...provided a spark in key games off the bench...can score the ball from a variety of areas...we need him to step a forward and be a legitimate offensive threat on the block...has gained 20 pounds and a lot of strength from a year ago, so the physical play at the college level will not affect him as it did last year.  Has a chance to be a really good player."

F John Koschnitzky 6-6/195 Fr Oak Forest, IL (H.S.)

Prep School: Attended Air Force Academy Prep School, played basketball.

High school: As senior, averaged 20.7 points, 9.4 rebounds...named IBCA Class AA 4th team all-state...also played pitcher was 7-1 with 2.42 ERA

Ron Rose: "A young man we recruited out of high school...came a year later after a stint at Air Force Academy Prep...a tremendous athlete who is our best jumper along with Edmond (O'Callaghan)...very versatile player who can shoot the 3 and post an effort to fit in early he has not been as aggressive as I'd like...would like to see him use all of his tools...John has a high ceiling at Illinois Wesleyan."

F Dexter Walker 6-5/220 Fr. Morton, IL (H.S.)

High school: As senior averaged 18.1 points and 5.4 rebounds...made Peoria Journal Star 3A/4A All-Area team for third consecutive year.

Ron Rose: "Has really played well early in practice...right now he is playing in the post area and has shown a great ability to post up strong and finish inside as well as pass outside...for a freshman, very advanced strengh-wise...also has ability to step up and shoot behind arc...shown good decision making abilities."


C Brett Chamernik 6-5/225 Sr. Naperville, IL (Benet Academy)

2007-08: Started all 27 games...averaged 10.8 points, 5.4 rebounds...shot .588 from the field

2006-07: 1.5 ppg, 1.2 rpg in 24 varsity games (averaged 6 minutes/game)

2005-06: Averaged 13.1 ppg on JV team.

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: "A co-captain this year (with Sean Dwyer) as voted by the players...had a breakout season as a junior and was a big reason we were able to compete at the level we did last year...we would like to see him take that next step up this season and provide leadership for this group...he is a tireless worker...his work ethic in the weight room, in practice, and in games carries over to everyone...if you are going to lineup vs Brett in a game you better have your shoelaces tied tight, because he is going to run and he's going to put a body on you and he's going to work hard every second he's on the floor."

F/C Edmond O'Callaghan 6-6/200 So. Chicago, IL (St. Patrick H.S.)

2007-08: Primarily played on the JV team...played in 9 varsity games, averaging 1.7 points and 1.7 rebounds in limited time.

High school: As senior, averaged 10.1 points and 8.3 rebounds for 20-6 St. Patrick team.

Ron Rose: "Has shown good progress in preseason...has understanding of the importance of what he brings to the team which is his ability to defend the post and rebound...he is really athletic and can elevate...can help fill the hole left by Darius Gant on the boards."

C Ryan Connolly 6-9/290 Fr. Springfield, IL (Lanphier H.S.)

High school: As senior, averaged 16.2 points and 9.9 rebounds, leading Lanphier to 18-win season and Sectional final appearance.

Ron Rose: "Nickmame is 'Big Country', players call him 'B.C.'...I haven't seen all the rosters, but I can't believe there are many guys in the league bigger...he has great size and can be a force in the middle for us down the road...has soft hands and a soft shot for a big he gets more acclimated to the college game, he can really help us."

C Eric McCullough 6-9/205 Fr. Normal, IL (U High)

High school: As senior, averaged 13.3 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.4 blocks...shot .540 from field...named Pantagraph 1st Team All-Area...D1 basketball scholarship offers included Eastern Illinois, Army, Holy Cross, Niagara, IUPUI, Youngstown State, Tennessee-Martin, and North Florida.

Ron Rose: "A tall, long, athletic post man...tremendous timing in blocking shots and rebounding...offensive game is developing...has a nice soft shot around the he adjusts to how physical the college game is, he will get better and better as the year goes on." Analysis

With 95% of the precincts reporting, we're ready to call the starting races at point-guard, shooting guard, and one of the post spots...

PG Travis Rosenkranz (So), 6-0 

SG Sean Johnson (So), 6-1

PF/C Doug Sexauer (So), 6-7

We believe the remaining perimeter starter will come from the following group:

G Sean Dwyer (Jr), 5-10

SF Matt Schick (So), 6-4

SF Jordan Zimmer (Fr), 6-5

SF/PF John Koschnitzky (Fr), 6-6

As far as the second starting post spot, we believe that is Brett Chamernik's when healthy and ready to go.  Until then, the remaining starting spot should come down to:

PF Duncan Lawson (So), 6-7

SF/PF John Koschnitzky (Fr), 6-6

F/C Edmond O'Callaghan (So), 6-6

Key questions in sorting out the rotation:

1) Does Sean Dwyer start?  Last year the Titans moved to a 3-guard starting lineup  (Rosenkranz, Dwyer, Johnson) early in the conference season, and it worked.  The Titans surprised everyone by finishing 9-5 in the CCIW, tied for second with Wheaton.  There is a valid question moving forward, though, about a perimeter trio that is 5-10, 6-0, and 6-1.  Does it make the Titans too small? Would it make more sense to work Dwyer into the point guard/shooting guard rotation heavily and start a more traditional small forward (like 6-4 Schick, 6-5 Zimmer, or 6-6 Koschnitzky)?  One could make a case for this either way - Dwyer brings perimeter defender, toughness, and leadership.  A lineup with a bigger wing would provide another scorer on the floor and help in matching up with bigger teams. This decision will impact IWU's '08-09 rotation and playing time situation more than anything.  

2) What big guys will round out the post rotation (assuming 6-5 Brett Chamernik and 6-7 Doug Sexauer are safely in that mix)? With Chamernik currently injured, a lot of guys are getting a good look in practice.  Duncan Lawson is much improved from his freshman season...sophomore Edmond O'Callaghan seems to be having a strong practice season...John Koschnitzky can play the 4 and has a chance to get in the mix.  Will either of the two 6-9 freshmen emerge? Eric McCullough and Ryan Connolly both have big upsides at IWU but may have to earn their way to the varsity rotation like so many before them have - via success on the JV team...6-5 freshman Dexter Walker has turned heads so far. There is clearly playing time to be won here - while Chamernik is out and also after he returns.

3) Who are the odd men out?  Most likely, the Titans will play a 9 or 10-man rotation again in 2008-09.  Start counting the number of CCIW-ready players in the capsules above and you'll quickly realize there will be some good players on the outside looking in of the varsity rotation.

Freshmen starters at IWU

With a couple freshmen in the mix for a starting job in 2008-09 we note...

IWU freshman starters, last 20 years:
(freshman season)

Travis Rosenkranz '11 (2007-08) current player

Sean Johnson '11 (2007-08) current player

Zach Freeman '07 (2003-04)*#

Adam Dauksas '06 (2002-03)*#

Luke Kasten '03 (1999-00)*#

Korey Coon '00 (1996-97)*#

Bryan Crabtree '97 (1993-94)*#

Brian Martin '93 (1989-90)#

David Kunka '93 (1988-89)#

* = would go on to be a Division III All-American

# = would go on to be All-CCIW performer

Note, in the 20-year span noted above, Illinois Wesleyan has had four players go on to be All-Americans who didn't even make the varsity rotation as freshmen (and played JV):

* Keelan Amelianovich '06

* Brent Niebrugge '98

* Chris Simich '96

* David Caldwell '91

Non-Conference Schedule

The Titans will once again face a tough slate during the non-conference portion of the schedule, but maybe not as tough as year's past due to a few traditionally strong programs being a bit down.  For example, NAIA St. Xavier is not ranked in the NAIA D1preseason poll, while Olivet Nazarene is just #25 (both have been Top 15 teams in recent years).  Also, Hanover is in its first season under new head coach Jon Miller and won't look like those powerhouse Panther teams the Titans faced a few years ago.

That said, the Titans non-conference schedule is strong. It all starts with the Manchester College Tip-off Tournament Nov. 21-22 in North Manchester, Indiana.  IWU and Manchester have not faced each other since those memorable NCAA tournament games in 1994 and 1995, with Steve Alford at the helm of the the Spartans. Current skipper Brad Nadborne doesn't have the name recognition of the Hoosier great, but he does have better hair.

Maryville (Mo.) comes to town November 30 in its last season as a Division III program. The Saints are moving to Division II next year and will join the Great Lakes Valley Conference (Lewis, Quincy, Kentucky Wesleyan, etc).

The highlight of the non-conference schedule will probably be the December 6 matchup with defending national champion, and preseason #1, Wash U.  IWU will face off vs the Bears in the 3-team Lopata Classic.  Wash U features preseason All-Americans Tyler Nading and Sean Wallis... and their best player might be shooting guard Aaron Thompson. They are loaded again.

On December 19, #22-ranked University of Chicago visits the Shirk Center for a rare Friday night contest. Mike McGrath's Maroons will be led by Matt Corning and Jake Pancratz in '08-09.

If the Titans can get past St. Xavier on December 29 at the Northwood University tournament in Florida, they'll probably face the host Seahawks. NAIA Division 2 #4-ranked Northwood is coached by Rollie Massimino, best know for leading Villanova to the 1985 NCAA Division I national championship.  Northwood has a very D1-looking roster, featuring transfers from Seton Hall, George Washington, and Providence and 3 players standing 7-0 or taller.

This schedule should be nice preparation for the grueling CCIW schedule to come in January. 

College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin
2007-08 CCIW Finish 2008-09 Coaches Poll
Augustana 11-3 Wheaton 46 (5)
Illinois Wesleyan 9-5 Augustana 43 (3)
Wheaton 9-5 Elmhurst 38
Elmhurst 8-6 Illinois Wesleyan 33
Carthage 7-7 Carthage 25
North Park 6-8 North Central 19
North Central 4-10 North Park 14
Millikin 2-12 Millikin 7

As noted earlier, Illinois Wesleyan is ranked #18 in the poll.  Sitting behind three other nationally ranked teams, however, the Titans are picked just 4th in the 2009 CCIW race.

"When you are picked fourth in your conference, you generally don't get picked in the top 25 in the country," joked Ron Rose.  "That speaks volumes about our league.  The league has been good my first two years, but it hasn't been like it is going to be this year. To have four teams in the preseason top 20, including #2 and #3, that is just incredible," said the third-year IWU head coach.

Rose points out that the reason the CCIW is expected to be so tough in 2009 is very simple - the number of quality players returning.

"When you look at the number of returning starters and returning all-conference players, the best kids in the league are all coming back," he said.

Of the 15 All-CCIW selections in '07-08, only three were seniors (IWU's Darius Gant, Augustana's Dain Swetalla, and Carthage's Trey Bowens). Four of the five 1st Teamers are back this year, including preseason All-Americans Kent Raymond, Brent Ruch, Steve Djurickovic, and Brett Wessels.

"It is not going to matter who is matched up with who every Wednesday and Saturday, it is going to be a battle every night," said Rose. "The team that finds itself in first at the end is going to be the team that comes to play every night and doesn't allow 6, 7, and 8 to beat them."

Below are capsules for each CCIW team heading into 2008-09.

Wheaton's Kent Raymond

CCIW Capsules


2007-08 record: 23-6 overall, 11-3 CCIW (1st)

Starters lost: Dain Swetalla (11.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg)

Starters returning: Jordan Delp* (16.1 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 2.3 apg), Brett Wessels (14.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 2.0 apg), Alex Washington (10.3 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 1.9 apg), Chandlor Collins (8.2 ppg, 8.4 rpg), Matt Pelton (6.4 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 3.3 apg)

* suffered ruptured achilles in 7th game...missed remainder of season

Impact newcomers: Brian DeSimone, PG (6-1/188, Fr.), Chris Anderson, F (6-4/190, Fr.)

Projected Starting Lineup (by CCIW time):

G Matt Pelton (6-2/203, Jr.)

G Jordan Delp (6-0,163, Sr.)

G Brett Wessels (6-3/200, Sr.)

F Justin Bertrand (6-6/229, Sr.)

F Chandlor Collins (6-7/193, Sr.)


In 2008 Augustana won the CCIW title outright for the third consecutive season.  By doing so again in 2009, the Vikings would become the first program to accomplish that in half a century.  Although surprisingly not picked as the league favorite in the preseason coaches poll, Grey Giovanine's squad finds itself in great shape to make a run at another title, ranked #2 nationally in the preseason poll.  Only defending national champion Wash U is ranked higher.  Augie returns 4 starters from its 2007-08 team - 1st Team All-CCIW performer Brett Wessels, 3rd Teamer Matt Pelton, Alex Washington, and Chandlor Collins.  The Vikings also return Jordan Delp, a 2nd Team All-CCIW player in 2007 who suffered a ruptured achilles tendon during the non-conference last year and missed the conference season. The biggest question mark surrounding the 2008-09 Augustana team is offensive low-post play. The senior duo of 6-6 Justin Bertrand and 6-7 Chandlor Collins is extremely athletic - maybe one of the most athletic post duos in Division III - but the jury is still out on their ability to consistently score within the halfcourt offense.  If Bertrand and Collins can provide a solid offensive presence, Augustana should be outstanding, as perimeter personnel is stellar.  Something else to keep an eye on is how the Vikings fit Jordan Delp back into the rotation.  The trio of Pelton, Washington, and Wessels won a conference championship together in 2008 - the Vikes will have to reestablish roles this season.  This is a team that could find its way to Salem, Virginia in March, but will have to get through the rigorous CCIW schedule to get the chance.



2007-08 record: 13-12 overall, 7-7 CCIW (5th)

Starters lost: Trey Bowens (15.7 ppg, 2.4 rpg), Neb Franciskovic (4.2 ppg, 2.8 rpg)

Starters returning: Steve Djurickovic (23.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 4.3 apg), Sean Fendley (11.1 ppg, 2.3 rpg), Billy Shemerdiak (8.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg)

Impact newcomers: Adam Tolo (6-6 F, Jr., South Suburban College), Max Cary (6-3 G, Fr.)

Projected Starting Lineup (by CCIW time):

G Steve Djurickovic (6-3/179, So)

G Sean Fendley (6-1/175, Jr)

G Steve Ideran (6-3/170, Jr)

F Adam Stuart (6-4/210, Sr)

F Adam Tolo (6-6/190, Jr)


6-3 guard Steve Djurickovic took the league by storm last season, averaging 23.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game in 2007-08.  He was named to the All-CCIW 1st Team, a rare honor for a freshman, and the 4th Team of the All-America team.  The son of Carthage head coach Bosko Djurickovic had a knack for making big shots late in games and looked anything but a first-year CCIW player.  The Red Men finished 7-7 in the CCIW in 2008, making Carthage 33-37 (.471) the last five seasons.  Carthage went 46-10 (.821) with 3 league titles in the 4 seasons prior (2000 - 2003).  With Djurickovic to build around, and several other very good perimeter players, such as Sean Fendley (11.1 ppg, .443 3-pt) and 6-3 freshman Max Cary, Carthage looks to become one of the league's powers again. The question mark this season, as it was last, is size and low-post play.  The Red Men will most likely start 6-4 Adam Stuart at the 4 and thin 6-6 perimeter player Adam Tolo, a junior college transfer, at the other post spot.  Carthage has just two players taller than 6-5 on its 25-man roster.  Most likely the Red Men will be a very tough W, but will not big enough down low to finish in the CCIW's top three.



2007-08 record: 18-8 overall, 8-6 CCIW (4th)

Starters lost: Jared Hintzsche (7.4 ppg, 4.5 rpg), Matt Ryder (8.2 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 1.9 apg)

Starters returning: Ryan Burks (17.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.0 apg), Brent Ruch (16.5 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 2.8 apg), Chris Childs (6.0 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 3.1 apg)

Impact newcomers: Zack Boyd, G/F (6-2/190, Fr.), Mike McCurdy, PG (5-10/165, Fr.), Shaun Ratay, C (6-8/230, Fr.)

Projected Starting Lineup (by CCIW time):

G Dustin Bainter (6-2/180, Jr)

G Zack Boyd (6-2/190 Fr)

F Ryan Burks (6-4/185, Jr)

F Robert Strzemp (6-4/245, Sr)

C Brent Ruch (6-9/255, Jr)


The Bluejays enter the campaign ranked #17 by  They feature possibly the best 1-2 punch in the CCIW, with 6-9/255 Brent Ruch and 6-4/185 wing Ryan Burks.  This inside/outside duo makes Elmhurst extremely hard to defend. The Bluejays will have to find consistent, solid guard play though - something they did not have last season. Look for junior Dustin Bainter to get the first crack at the point-guard job, with impressive freshman Mike McCurdy waiting in the wings. At the 2, it looks like Zack Boyd, a small school sensation from Warrensburg-Latham, will start as a freshman. Physical power forward Robert Strzemp is back from injury and should provide more strength in the post, alongside Ruch. 6-8 freshman Shaun Ratay might help off the bench as well when done with this duties on the EC football team. Ruch and Burks are outstanding but Elmhurst will need good guard play to make a run at a CCIW championship.


Illinios Wesleyan

2007-08 record: 16-11 overall, 9-5 CCIW (T-2nd)

Starters lost: Darius Gant (12.9 ppg, 9.5 rpg)

Starters returning: Sean Johnson (11.6 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 2.7 apg), Brett Chamernik (10.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg), Travis Rosenkranz (9.6 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 3.3 apg), Sean Dwyer (5.5 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 1.7 apg)

Impact newcomers: Jordan Zimmer, G/F (6-5/185, Fr.), John Koschnitzky, F (6-6/195, Fr.), Eric McCullough, C (6-9/205, Fr.), Eliud Gonzalez, PG (5-9/159, Fr.), Ryan Connolly, C (6-9/290, Fr.)

Projected Starting Lineup (by CCIW time):

G Travis Rosenkranz (6-0/175, So.)

G Sean Johnson (6-1/185, So.)

F Jordan Zimmer (6-5/185, Fr.)

F Doug Sexauer (6-7/225. So.)

C Brett Chamernik (6-5/225, Sr.)



2007-08 record: 9-16 overall, 2-12 CCIW (8th)

Starters lost:  Darrell Adams (4.4 ppg, 1.8 rpg), Keanon Harrington (3.6 ppg, 2.8 rpg)

Starters returning:  Tunde Ogunleye (15.8 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 2.0 apg), Joscar Demby (7.3 ppg, 4.6 rpg), Mark Patrick (6.2 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.5 apg)

Impact Newcomers: Corey Mitchell, G (6-0 Jr. - Milwaukee Area Tech College)

Projected Starting Lineup (by CCIW time):

G Mark Patrick (6-0, Sr.)

G Corey Mitchell (6-0, Jr.)

G/F Tunde Ogunleye (6-2, Sr.)

G/F Robert Burton (6-4, Jr.)

C Joscar Demby (6-7, Jr.)


In the second season following the firing of head coach Tim Littrell, Millikin appears to be in the early stages of a complete rebuilding process under Marc Smith.  The Big Blue lost several promising big men in the off-season, with the transfers of 6-7 Zach Ott, 6-8 Robert Rexroade, and 6-7 Darrell Adams.  Millikin was unanimously picked by the coaches to finish last in the 2009 CCIW race. This could be a 2-3 win team in conference play.


North Central

2007-08 record: 10-15 overall, 4-10 CCIW (7th)

Starters lost: Jeremy Williams

Starters returning: Chris Drennan (17.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg), Matt Rogers (17.6 ppg, 3.6 rpg), Reid Barringer (11.8 ppg, 2.4 rpg), Mitch Raridon (8.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg), Dean Prince (2.6 ppg, 1.3 rpg, 2.9 apg)

Impact newcomers: Mark Adams, G/F (6-3/195)

Projected Starting Lineup (by CCIW time):

G Reid Barringer (6-0/175, Jr.)

G Mitch Raridon (6-3/190, Sr.)

F David Twyman (6-3/195, Jr.)

F Matt Rogers (6-5/220, Sr.)

F Chris Drennan (6-5/215, Sr.)


The Cardinals look to bounce back from a 7th place CCIW finish in 2008, and they certainly have enough returning.  NCC will be led by a pair of very good 6-5 senior low post players - Chris Drennan (a 2nd Team All-CCIW selection last year who averaged 17.7 ppg and shot 56% from the field) and Matt Rogers (17.6 ppg, 52% FG).  David Twyman, the Card's most athletic player, saw action in 21 games in 2008 and should get the start at the 3.  North Central's backcourt will be manned by a pair of veterans, junior Reid Barringer (11.8 ppg, 69 3-pointers made, 44% 3-pt) and senior Mitch Raridon (8.6 ppg), the son of the NCC's skipper Todd.  Other returnees expected to contribute off the bench are 6-0 senior PG Dean Prince (2.27 assist/TO ratio), 6-2 senior SG Dominique King (6.3 ppg), 6-5 senior center Josh Corso, and 6-3 G/F Brian Evans.  Todd Raridon's team also looks for an impact this season from highly touted freshman Mark Adams, last year's Kane County Chronicle Player of the Year after averaging 19 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists for Aurora Central Catholic.  There are not many leagues in Division III where the team picked 6th in the preseason is as dangerous as North Central should be this year.


North Park

2007-08 record: 14-11 overall, 6-8 CCIW (6th)

Starters lost: Jason Gordon (11.6 ppg, 4.7 rpg), Ed Whitaker (5.8 ppg), Dan Oziminski (4.6 ppg)

Starters returning: Nick Williams (15.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg), Antonio Stevens (8.9 ppg, 4.6 rpg)

Impact newcomers: Stephano Jones (6-4/241, Jr.) -- 7.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg for NPU in 2006-07, Roshawn Russell (5-10/150, Fr.), Lewis Wilson (6-4/190, Jr.) -- transfer from Kennedy-King College, Joel Benson (6-4/220, Fr.), D.J. Cooper (5-11/165, Fr.), Issa Avery (6-4/170, Fr.), Sean McNamee (6-3/180, So.) -- transfer from Lake Forest College

Projected starting lineup (by CCIW time):

G Roshawn Russell (5-10/150, Fr.)

G Clayton Cahill (6-0/180, So.)

G Antonio Stevens (6-3/185, Jr.)

F Nick Williams (6-5/185, Jr.)

C Stephano Jones (6-4/241, Jr.)


Preseason injuries, academic setbacks, and defections will strip much of the experience from a North Park roster that will include only one senior, little-used reserve center Mike Ventura. Much of the success or failure of the Vikings this season will hinge upon what sort of night-in, night-out production they can get from 2007-08 All-CCIW second-teamer Nick Williams and from last year's junior varsity sensation Clayton Cahill. If those two can shine with regularity, the Vikings will put enough points on the board to compete. Otherwise, North Park will struggle to score. Look for the center combination of Stephano Jones (who returns after a year's hiatus) and sophomore Phil Schniedermeier to give NPU a muh better inside game than last year's edition had, and for freshman point guard Ro Russell to provide some electric moments along with the growing pains typical of a freshman starting PG in the CCIW. With only one senior on the team in a senior-dominated league and an undersized lineup, NPU might be a year away from making a run at the CCIW title.



2007-08 record: 22-8 overall, 9-5 CCIW (T-2nd)

Starters lost: none

Starters returning: Kent Raymond (24.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3.9 apg), Andy Wiele (15.2 ppg, 10.5 rpg), Ben Panner (13.2 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.8 apg), Andrew Jahns (6.7 ppg, 3.0 rpg), Jacob Carwell (4.9 ppg, 3.3 rpg)

Impact newcomers: Tim McCrary, F (6-6/195 Fr.), Jeremy Pflederer, PG (6-0/170 Fr.), Phil Carr, F (6-6/195 Fr.), Spencer Schultze, C (6-6/210 Fr.)

Projected Starting Lineup (by CCIW time):

G Andrew Jahns (6-2/180, So.)

G Kent Raymond (6-3/195, Sr.)

G Ben Panner (6-3/175, Jr.)

F Jacob Carwell (6-7/205, Jr.)

C Andy Wiele (6-8/230, Sr.)


It's impressive to be picked ahead of the national #2, but that's the case for Wheaton - the CCIW favorite per the Preseason Coaches Poll. With all five starters returning, including possibly the best player in Division III, Wheaton looks to win its first CCIW title since 1999. Kent Raymond had another monster season in 2007-08, averaging 24.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 3.9 assists. The second most significant reason the Thuder finished 22-8 last year and made it to the Elite Eight was the play of 6-8 center Andy Wiele, who also returns.  A much stronger and more physical Wiele averaged 15.2 points and 10.5 rebounds in 2007-08. 6-3 guard Ben Panner provides a consistent perimeter scoring threat for the Thunder and sophomore Andrew Jahns should have a good season. Bill Harris is excited about the potential of 6-6 freshman post player Tim McCrary, who should be in the mix this year. The Thunder, led by Kent Raymond, are a legitimate Final Four contender

Bob Quillman's Preseason All-CCIW Team

Kent Raymond (G), Wheaton

Steve Djurickovic (G), Carthage

Ryan Burks (F), Elmhurst

Brent Ruch (C), Elmhurst

Brett Wessels (G), Augustana

Final Thoughts

When asked about his team's strengths, Ron Rose pointed to the offense.  "I think we're going to be able to score the basketball," he said. "We've got enough skill that if we make good decisions, the offensive end is going to take care of itself."

And when asked about his concerns of the young '08-09 Titans, he spoke of the other end of the floor. "The biggest challenge we face is, are we going to commit to defending every possession and can we rebound," he asked himself.  "When you look at last year's team and what we are missing off of it, it's Darius Gant's 10 rebounds. So are we going to make a commitment to rebounding? Now, I don't think we're going to have anyone average 10, but we have to make a commitment as a group to have more guys rebound."

In discussing the success of 2007-08, Rose references "team chemistry" quite a bit in explaining how his team so significantly beat expectations.  He believes this factor will be critical again this year.

"The intangible element is how unselfish are we going to be and what will our team chemistry be like," he said. "Whenever you have great depth it is very positive, but sometimes having great depth means some guys are not getting as many minutes as they'd like. So once the dust settles and we establish roles and playing time, it is how those guys who aren't playing as much handle it that will ultimately determine our team chemistry."

This is certainly a reality for this deep and talented Illinois Wesleyan team, but Rose has confidence his team will handle it.  "The thing I am most proud of as the coach at Illinois Wesleyan is the quality of the young men in this program," he said.  "This is a close-knit group that gets along incredibly well and is focused on doing whatever it takes to win."

So with three other nationally ranked teams in the conference, can this group of Titans really bring home a CCIW title?

"I do believe this group has the talent to compete for a CCIW championship," said Rose.  "The first few games we may not be at our best, but by the time the CCIW schedule starts, we expect to be a very good basketball team."

It promises to be another great season of Illinois Wesleyan basketball, Titan fans.  Best of luck to Ron Rose, his staff, and the young men ready to take the floor in the 100th season of Titan basketball.

Memorial Gym - Home of the Titans, 1921 - 1961