Men's Basketball Hoping For More Consistency This Season
Athletics - posted on 11/14/2005
Last season, the Lakeland men's basketball team shrugged off a season of inconsistency by finishing on a high note and grabbing third place in the Lake Michigan Conference.
This season, the Muskies welcome a host of new faces, but hope to quickly come together to make a run at an LMC title.
The Muskies lose two starters from last year in seniors Nick Zeck and Ryan Hiir, and the biggest question marks come in the paint for Lakeland, especially considering that Zeck, a first team all-LMC selection, led the team in 10 categories.
With the exception of 6-foot-7 freshman Tumana Scott (forward, Palm Coast, Fla./Flager Palm Coast) everyone of the roster will be 6-4 or smaller and there is not a lot of depth in the post position. However, the well is full when it comes to the guard position, which should cause teams trying to guard the Muskies on the perimeter problems.
"Last year on paper I thought we would have finished a little higher in our league than we did," said third-year head coach Gary Grzesk. "We ended the season on a high note, however, tying for third. Part of it was probably because we had so many newcomers and it took a while for everything to gel together. They did finish the second half of the year strong and at times we played very good basketball, just not consistently enough over the course of the year"
This season, Lakeland will turn to seniors Germayne James (guard, Richmond Ind./Richmond) and Nick Howard (guard, Sturgeon Bay/Sturgeon Bay), along with sophomores Kris Saiberlich (guard, Fond du Lac/Fond du Lac) and Danny Ehnert (forward, Sussex/Hartland Arrowhead) to lead the program. All four of these players bring something special to the table for the Muskies.
James, an honorable mention all-LMC pick last year, will find the ball in his hands quite a bit. He will without question be the leader of this team, and he will be expected to make the big plays. James will be Lakeland's point guard and seeing action off the ball.
"Germayne really had an up and down season last year," said Grzesk. "I think part of his struggle early last year is that he had three different coaches in three years. By the time he figured out the system and got comfortable here at Lakeland, the second half of the year he was as valuable as anyone else in our program. With that said, I expect him to be a lot more consistent this year. Part of the challenge is to figure out how he can best help the team. He will definitely have the ball in his hands, and he will be able to make a lot of decisions on the offensive end for us."
Saiberlich, a first team all-LMC honoree as a freshman, will see plenty of touches on offense. He is the top returning scorer at 12.7 points per game, he is one of the league's top 3-point shooters and he can get the ball into his teammate's hands as he had 41 assists last season.
"Kris had a very good freshman year," said Grzesk. "He exceeded my expectations. Kris will always bring the ability to shoot the basketball, but I think he also has some things he can improve on and get better. At times he has struggled against bigger, stronger, physical kids, but he is the type of kid who will add something to his game year-to-year. So not only will he be ready this season for the physical demands of college basketball, but I think he will have the ability to put the ball on the floor a little more. I know it was a high priority for him to improve and continue to get better."
On the defensive end, Howard is the other senior that the team will be looking to as a leader. He sets the pace for the Muskies defensively, finishing second in defensive rebounds among returnees with 84, and he leads all returnees with eight blocked shots. Grzesk said Howard is one of Lakeland's most dangerous players when he is consistent on offense.
"Nick Howard is one of our best defensive players," said Grzesk. "He can also play a number of different positions for us. He is really versatile. I think Nick will be a lot better this year in his consistency on the offensive end. Defensively, he was great the entire year and he can guard a number of different positions."
Ehnert doesn't get a lot of recognition on the squad from fans and the media, but he has certainly caught his coach's eye. He is first among returnees in offensive rebounds, and he plays defense with a passion. Although his aggressiveness has led to foul trouble in the past, it's also a positive attribute that rubs off on his teammates.
"Ehnert is a kid that doesn't get a lot of recognition, but he is as valuable as any other person in our program," Grzesk said. "He can guard anybody from a two to a five and he just brings a level of toughness every practice and every game that rubs off on the other players. He is also probably our best defender on the ball and he is definitely our best defender off the ball. I think on a whole he averaged 17 minutes a game, and we would like to bump that up by a significant amount."
The Muskies have several transfers and incoming freshmen expected to make an immediate impact this season. Look for transfers Tyrone Coleman (junior forward, Phoenix, Ill./South Suburban CC) and Shane Grube (sophomore forward, Sheboygan North/Marquette) to see playing time.
"Tyrone has a great physical body and has two years of junior college experience under him," said Grzesk. "He can play a number of different positions, but he will most likely have to guard a post guy. Shane will hopefully have an opportunity to contribute and play on the perimeter as well. Within our league, he could guard a number of different positions."
Scott and fellow freshman Matt Rogers (Rochelle, Ill./Rochelle) have the chance to see minutes in their first season at Lakeland.
"Tumana, because of his size, will have an opportunity to play, especially outside of our conference when we play some taller, more physical teams," Grzesk said. "Matt Rogers had a very good high school career down in Illinois, and I would think he would be able to contribute as well."
Offensively, the Muskies will miss Zeck's formidable inside presence, but Grzesk is hoping his team's offensive depth means several players will step up into scoring roles.
"Offensively, I think we will be pretty balanced," said Grzesk. "Without Zeck, we may not have a true back-to-the-basket scorer, but I think we'll have a lot of interchangeable parts and a lot of skill. I don't think there will be one player that will average as many points as Nick did, but I think we'll have from five to seven players average anywhere from seven to 12 points."
Muskie basketball has always been known for its defense, and Grzesk believes this season should be no different. While some questions linger at the post, the rest of the defense should remain fairly solid.
"Our defense has been our bread and butter," said Grzesk. "Even before I got here, defense has been the staple of the program. I really expect that to continue. I think our guys understand that has to be the strength of our program, year in and year out. I think we can get better in the post defensively, and we have a number of guys who can guard a number of different positions which will give us a lot of flexibility in our lineup."
The schedule will once again be very tough, as the Muskies know that in order to be the best, they have to beat the best. After a tough season opener at Lake Forest, Lakeland will play much-improved UW-La Crosse and back-to-back defending Division III National Champion UW-Stevens Point at home early in the season. Pre-Christmas conference road games at Edgewood, Wisconsin Lutheran and Marian will also pose early tests.
The good news for Lakeland is that they have 12 home dates, the reward for spending much of the past few seasons on the road. The Muskies are looking forward to showing off the new Woltzen Gymnasium.
"The schedule will be just as difficult, if not more difficult, as last year," said Grzesk. "There are no easy games on our schedule, but at the same time we are trying to prepare ourselves for the conference and the conference tournament. Playing those teams will only help us down the line. The thing that may help us this year is that we have a lot more home games than we had in the past. We kind of took our lumps scheduling wise playing a lot of road games the past few years, this year we get a lot of those schools to return games to Lakeland. So for the first time, we have a significant amount of home games."
The combination of a new gym and a team that feels they under-achieved last season has all signs pointing to an exciting men's basketball season on the Lakeland campus this winter.
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