Tradition in Transition: Men's Basketball Preview
Athletics - posted on 11/11/2006
The Lakeland College men's basketball team is coming off a year of great success: winning the final regular season Lake Michigan Conference Championship with a 21-6 record, the team's best finish since 1994, and sweeping the LMC's top three individual awards.
However, this is a new season full of lots "new" things, specifically a new coach and a new style of play.
Kyle Brumett joins the Muskies as head coach, replacing Gary Grzesk who left for St. Norbert. Brumett, the top assistant at DePauw University for the past seven seasons, has laid a number of goals on the table for the team.
"The first goal to get the guys to learn what I'm all about and what I expect out of them as more than just basketball players," said Brumett. "How they act and portray themselves on campus carries over to how we're going to perform, look and act on the court. I couldn't be happier with that since we've gotten started from the beginning of the school year. They've done great academically and are pretty good at being responsible on campus. Since practice, they've started buying into what I'm getting them to do."
On the court, the goals will be the same as any other season: win the first-ever Northern Athletics Conference title and get into the postseason NCAA Division III Tournament.
"With no automatic bid, that makes the non-conference games as important as the conference," said Brumett. "It makes it really tough for us now because we feel we need to be ready for the first couple of games. Our end goal is always going to be to make the NCAA tournament, which puts added pressure on the non-conference games because our league doesn't have an automatic bid this year. Competing for a conference championship, regardless of whether or not you make the NCAA Tournament, is a great achievement and something everyone should be proud of. The big picture goal is to win our league."
The Muskies biggest challenge comes early on as they get used to Brumett and his up-tempo style of play.
"These guys are learning that my style is very different than their previous coach," said Brumett. "It's a lot more up-tempo and a lot faster then they played last year. Last year, they pretty much walked into every possession. We will never be walking and always going. It's a work in progress and we are nowhere near where we hope we're going to be come late December, early January."
Noticeably missing from the Lakeland roster will be Germayne James and Nick Howard. James was the go-to guy on offense, winning LMC Player of the Year last winter and leading the team in scoring, averaging 14.6 points per game. Howard wrapped up a celebrated four-year career which defined him as one of the league's best defensive stoppers.
However, with a class of new recruits and the team's core group returning, the Muskies won't be lacking in talent. The Muskies return three starters in senior forward Tyrone Coleman (Phoenix, Ill./Thornton), junior guard Kris Saiberlich (Fond du Lac/Fond du Lac) and junior forward Danny Ehnert (Sussex/Hartland Arrowhead).
Coleman averaged 6.6 points and 4.3 rebounds a game for the Muskies last season. Saiberlich is a two-time All-LMC player who averaged 13 points last season and ranked 23rd in the nation in 3-point field goal percentage (43.8). Ehnert led the Muskies in rebounding with 118 rebounds for 4.4 per game.
The Muskies will also expect big things from junior forward David Hoerres (Waterford/Waterford) and sophomore forward Matt Rogers (Rochelle, Ill./Rochelle). Hoerres came off the bench in each game for the Muskies, while Rogers won LMC Freshman of the Year.
"Matt is one of the better players in the conference and he's a very important piece for us," said Brumett.
Junior Aaron Regal (Suring/Suring) will start at point guard for the Muskies.
"He came off the bench last year as a back-up for Germayne James," said Brumett. "We're going to have to have him on floor as many minutes as we can. He's going to be the guy who determines how we play a lot of times and he is going to have the ball in his hands a lot. He'll set the tempo of play. He played 15-16 minutes a game last year and he'll be playing 25-26 minutes a game this year. He is going to be a very significant individual for us."
Sophomore forward Peter Worth (Sheboygan/Sheboygan North) will also be a significant part of the Lakeland line-up, and his former high school and now college teammate junior guard Shane Grube (Sheboygan/Sheboygan North), a transfer to Lakeland last season after playing as a walk-on at Marquette, will also be in the mix.
"Shane is going to have to do a lot of different things for us," said Brumett. "He only played 10 minutes a game last year, but right now is competing for a starting spot. He has played really well. The way we're going to play fits him a lot more than the way they played last year. He's been a very pleasant surprise.
"Those three guys (Regal, Worth and Grube) are almost like new guys. They were on the team last year and were definitely key members, but their roles are just so much more significant this year."
The freshman include guard Jacob Heinemeyer (Shiocton/Shiocton), forward Andy Marks (Oak Creek/Oak Creek), guard Phil Sontag (Altoona/Altoona) and guard Andrew Washington (Milwaukee/Hamilton).
"All four freshmen have a chance to be better players as they grow and mature," said Brumett. "They are not going to be major impact guys right away. Some may play because of injuries to give some of our guys a break. The guys that are probably going to be the biggest difference from last year to this year are the guys returning that didn't play a whole lot."
In addition to a new coaching staff, the Muskies will be faced with a new conference, switching from the LMC to the newly formed Northern Athletics Conference.
"With a brand new league there is the dynamic of additional travel and having more conference games, which changes the way you look at your league," said Brumett. "The teams coming in from the Northern Illinois-Iowa Conference - Rockford, Benedictine and Concordia University Chicago - are all very competitive. They are just going to make our league a lot more competitive top to bottom. All those teams will bring a different level of athleticism, a faster pace.
"Aurora is picked at the top of the league, Edgewood is one of the teams towards the top, and Rockford has a good returning team. Hopefully we're in the top three, four or five. I think it's hard to talk about the league without going through it for a year. I've seen these teams play, but I haven't competed against them. So much of college basketball at our level is players' preparation and how the coach gets them prepared for each opponent night in and night out. You're really not going to know that until you go through the season one time and get a feel for it how your group of guys are going to stack up against other teams in the your league."
The NAC season is 18 games long, and Brumett said a 12-6 or 11-7 record might find a team near the top of the conference.
"I think the league is going to be very competitive this year," said Brumett. "From the top team all the way down to seven or eight anybody could beat anybody in the league. As far as I can tell, I don't think it's going to be a situation like last year where Lakeland went 13-1 in conference. I think you're going to see a lot of parity between the teams, especially early on because everyone is not going to know what to expect from everyone else."
The Muskies waste no time diving into tough NAC play as their first game is with NAC preseason favorite Aurora at Lakeland on December 2. Helping them prepare for that game is an aggressive non-conference schedule that includes a game at UW-La Crosse after Thanksgiving and at date at UW-Stevens Point on Jan. 8.
"Those are big games," said Brumett. "Stevens Point was back-to-back national champs a few years back, and La Crosse is expected to have a big season this year. They are good games to play, but not in the ideal spots. UW-La Crosse is the day after Thanksgiving and UW-Stevens Point during Christmas break. It'll be a fun schedule.
"Hopefully we're playing our best towards the end and can compete to win an overall conference championship. As important, we have the conference tournament at the end of the year. Only the top six have a chance to win the conference tournament, which is always a big deal."
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