Tale of the Week - Lakeland Menís Basketball Off to Best Start in 19 Years
Athletics - posted on 12/5/2005
It's early - that's what Lakeland men's basketball coach Gary Grzesk keeps reminding his team.
The 2005-06 edition of the Muskies are 5-1 following Saturday's impressive 21-point win at Lake Michigan Conference preseason favorite Edgewood, the best start by a team in Lakeland's program in nearly two decades.
The 1986-87 squad, the last coached by Lakeland legend Duane "Moose" Woltzen, also started 5-1 before losing its next three en route to a 14-15 finish.
The 1982-83 team, led by then-junior John Koslowski, the program's all-time leading scorer, rolled out to a 6-0 start and won 8 of its first 10 before finishing 20-12.
While these Muskies are obviously excited with the best start by a Lakeland team in 19 years, they understand that basketball is a long season and their fortunes could easily change, especially considering Lakeland plays six of its next seven games on the road.
"You have to keep things in perspective," said Grzesk, the former UW-Green Bay standout now in his third season as Lakeland's head coach. "Basketball is a really long season, and we are only six games in, so the thing that the guys need to understand is they need to remain humble. As soon as you start thinking you're better than you are, you're not going to play as well as you're capable and somebody is going to beat you."
Seniors Germayne James (Richmond, Ind.) and Nick Howard (Sturgeon Bay, Wis.) both echoed the thoughts of their coach.
"We need to keep a level head, stay humble and stay hungry," said James, in his second season at Lakeland after transferring from Ancilla Junior College, Ind. "We need to just go out every game and prepare like it is the biggest game of the year. We need to think that the next game is the biggest game of the year, because it is the next game."
In addition to the 21-point road win over the league's preseason favorite, the Muskies also snapped two-time defending NCAA Division III national champion UW-Stevens Point's 45-game regular season non-conference win streak with a 63-58 win over the Points on Nov. 26.
"It is kind of surprising in a way because last year we started out kind of slow, way below .500," said Howard, the only member of the team in his fourth season at Lakeland. "This year we started out 1-0, getting that game at Lake Forest. We played a good game against UW-La Crosse that we should have had, before we knocked off Point. Now we are just riding off the momentum of beating Edgewood by 21. Hopefully we can go into this week and do the same."
The main reason that the team has had success this early in the season is because of their team chemistry.
"All the kids on the team are very unselfish," said Grzesk. "They are not worrying about who is scoring points or who gets the most shots. They just want to win. Our chemistry is really good and the guys understand their roles."
The players couldn't agree more.
"We have 12-15 guys buying into the team concept," said James. "We are all playing team defense. We are pretty much just doing what coach wants us to do in practice and than carrying that over into the games."
Howard says that this is one of the best teams, chemistry-wise, that he has played on in his four seasons at Lakeland.
"I think out of my four years this is the best chemistry we've had since my freshman year," said Howard. "I think the reason the chemistry is so good is because everybody knows their role this year, and they are doing what they have to do."
Grzesk said the team's three captains - James, Howard and sophomore Kris Saiberlich (Fond du Lac, Wis.) - are leading by example not only on the court during the games, but also in practices and off the court.
"It starts with our leadership," said Grzesk. "They set the tone in practice, and for the most part, we have had very good practices. Every time we have stepped on the floor we have gotten better as a group. I think it is because of our leaders who are keeping things in perspective, and helping the younger guys understand that practice is an opportunity for them to get better."
The Muskies are also locking down the opposition. Lakeland leads the LMC in defense holding opponents to an average of 56.7 points per game, and the Muskies are second in field goal percentage defense, holding the opposition to an average of 40 percent shooting.
Lakeland will play six of its next seven games on the road. The Muskies have a pair of LMC road games this week including games at Wisconsin Lutheran on Tuesday and at Marian on Saturday, Dec. 10. The Muskies then have two non-conference games before traveling to Hope College in Holland, Mich., for a tournament over Christmas break.
While Grzesk and his staff are pleased with their early-season success, they know that keeping their players focused will be important over this stretch.
"It is a tough thing to do (keeping the team focused)," said Grzesk. "Some of these guys haven't experienced a lot of success in their prior programs, so some of this, especially for the new guys, is new to them.
"You have to try and motivate them, keep them hungry and make them realize that you are only as good as your last game. We just need to continue to play the way we are capable, and take it game by game."
Share This Story Help
Lakeland offers links to several popular social bookmarking services. These links help you share stories with other people or create bookmarks for future reference. The services are free, but they require a personal account. Click for more information on social bookmarking
<< Return to News