2009-10 Men's Basketball Season Preview: Muskies set sights on improving, competing daily
Athletics - posted on 11/15/2009
In theory, the concept of "We Before Me," the mantra of the 2009-10 Lakeland men's basketball team, is quite simple.
Muskie players and coaches, however, hope that this philosophy - putting the team ahead of any individual - will be evident in everything they do this season.
One year after a 10-15 overall record and a fifth-place finish in the Northern Athletics Conference North Division, second-year head coach Aaron Aanonsen is hopeful that his team can make a push in the league standings.
"This year, we want everyone in our program to buy into helping do whatever it takes for the team to succeed," Aanonsen said. "Last season, we were inexperienced and weren't ready to play mentally or physically down the stretch. We need to compete every day in practice and in every single game."
Offensively, Aanonsen is hopeful that the team can improve its 67.4 points per game scoring average and cut down on its 15.7 turnovers per contest.
"We are trying to be more up-tempo this season," Aanonsen said. "To do that, we have to take care of the ball and improve our assist-to-turnover ratio. We've instilled a different offensive philosophy to help that."
Lakeland has also changed its defensive principles after surrendering 72.9 points per game and allowing 85 points or more in five of its last eight contests.
"Our goal is to be more aggressive on the defensive end," Aanonsen said. "It's a paradigm shift in approach for our guys, and they are taking a while to pick it up. However, I think it'll be beneficial in the long run."
Aanonsen has prepared what he believes to be a more challenging non-conference slate to prepare for the NAC schedule. The Muskies will take on a mix of in-state and regional opponents, highlighted by a four-team tournament at North Central on Nov. 20-21. Last season, Lakeland finished 6-3 in non-league contests, including a last-second victory at Lake Forest, where the team will open up on Nov. 15.
The Muskies, who have been picked to finish tied for fourth in the North Division this season by conference coaches, return four of last year's five starters, as well as the 2008-09 squad's top three scorers.
Jake Schwarz, a 6-foot-5 sophomore forward, returns as the team's leader in scoring (16.6 points per game) and rebounding (8.2 rpg). The Sheboygan, Wis., native earned honorable mention All-NAC and selection to the All-Freshmen team after placing among league leaders in points and rebounds per game, field goal percentage (.538) and free throw percentage (.851).
Schwarz is an extremely gifted offensive player with range out to the 3-point arc, but will need to improve on the defensive end to become a complete player.
"Jake needs to become a better defender and have a better feel for the game this season," Aanonsen said. "We're asking for a lot from him as a sophomore because he will need to adapt to how other teams will handle him on the offensive end."
Sophomore Josh Regal (Suring, Wis.), who was also named to the All-Freshmen team in 2008-09, averaged 15.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game and started all 25 contests for the Muskies. A lightning quick point guard, Regal also led the team in steals and will be relied on to handle the ball and get the team into offensive sets.
"Josh is a great playmaker, but now we're trying to get him to be a player who is under control," Aanonsen said. "If he honors our offensive principles, I think his assist-to-turnover ratio will improve."
The team's third leading scorer, senior guard Khendal Andrews, returns after averaging 10.8 points per game and shooting just over 36 percent from 3-point range. As one of the team's two seniors, the Kankakee, Ill., native is one of the team's most experienced players. He is also Lakeland's best shooter and is an above-average on-ball defender.
"There's no question Khendal is our best shooter, but now he just has to learn that role and embrace it," Aanonsen said. "He needs to stick to what he does well offensively. We need him to be more consistent this season if we want to win games."
Senior forward Anthony Cobb, a physical defender and rebounder at 6-foot-6 and 230 pounds, also returns as a starter for the Muskies. The Milwaukee, Wis., native averaged 5.8 points and 4.9 rebounds per game and shot 53.6 percent from the field.
"Anthony is learning his role much better this year," Aanonsen said. "He's improved his post defense and has a greater mentality scoring around the basket and rebounding."
Junior guard Phil Sontag is the team's lone addition to the starting line-up. Sontag (Altoona, Wis.) returns to action after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament prior to the 2008-09 season. As a sophomore, Sontag served primarily in a reserve role. He is one of the team's most fundamentally sound players, especially on the defensive end.
"Phil is an energy source for our team," Aanonsen said. "He's coming off a season-ending injury, so he has worked tirelessly so far and is hungry. He does the little things and is our best perimeter defender."
Aanonsen expects a number of players to contribute off the bench this season for Lakeland.
Freshman P.J. Marion (Milwaukee, Wis.) adds much-needed depth at the guard position. Marion is a strong, athletic guard who has the ability to break down a defense off the dribble.
"P.J. comes from a great high school program (Wisconsin Lutheran) and brings intensity and intelligence to our team," Aanonsen said. "He plays great on-ball defense and creates for others on offense."
Jamie Koebe, a freshman guard out of Seymour, Wis., will also see minutes for the Muskies. Koebe is a fantastic shooter who has improved defensively in the preseason.
Junior Sam Schroeder (Shawano, Wis.) and sophomores Eric Vandivier (Mt. Prospect, Ill.) and Hunter Wolf (Menasha, Wis.) will also challenge for playing time at the guard position. Vandivier is a versatile, smart player who averaged 3.5 points per game last season, while Wolf is an above-average shooter and energy player.
In the frontcourt, Aanonsen expects junior Trevor McKown (Hot Springs, S.D.), sophomore Germell Heard (Milwaukee, Wis.) and freshman Christian Baker (Bloomington, Ill.) to be contributors.
Heard started 12 games for Lakeland a year ago, averaging 6.3 points and 4.5 rebounds per contest.
"Germell has the ability to make plays around the basket," Aanonsen said. "He needs to be healthy and work on his fundamentals, but he brings a lot of energy to our team."
McKown has been a steady reserve for the Muskies for the past two years, appearing in nearly every game in that span.
Baker is somewhat undersized for his position at 6-foot-3, 190 pounds, but finishes well around the basket and is athletic.
Other players to watch this season include sophomore guard Brandon Young (Milwaukee, Wis.), freshman guards Matt Warren (Jensen Beach, Fla.) and Brandon Woods (Marion, Ill.), and freshman forwards Eric Strzok (Thorp, Wis.) and David Johnson (Stuart, Fla.).
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