Season Preview: Men's Basketball Shoots For 3rd Straight
LMC Championship & 1st NCAA Bid
Nov. 19, 2003
Take a good look at this year's men's basketball roster. If you've paid any attention to Lakeland College basketball it looks, well, really familiar.
Ricky Davis, Cory Nickel, Morten Szmiedowicz, Danny Jansson - haven't these guys graduated yet?
But that's only the beginning of what's shaping up as one of the most anticipated seasons in recent Lakeland memory.
"With our combination of all five returning starters, our other returning players and our newcomers, this year's team could do something special," said first-year head coach Gary Grzesk. "We have a lot of options, depth and versatility at each position."
Lakeland will be shooting for its third straight Lake Michigan Conference championship this season. The next logical step for the program, which has played for the right to advance to the NCAA Division III National Tournament twice in the last three years, is to finally earn a trip to the Big Dance.
What's new is the coaching staff. Paul Combs and his assistants have headed to UW-Platteville, and former UW-Green Bay standout Gary Grzesk begins his first season both at Lakeland and as a head coach.
"I've been prepared by some of the best coaches in the business," said Grzesk, who played under Wisconsin coaching legend Dick Bennett.
"Our seniors have been really great with the transition. They've really bought into what we're trying to implement. Their leadership with the younger players has been invaluable."
Offensively, Grzesk said Lakeland will employ many of the up-tempo strategies he learned serving as an assistant at UWGB under head coach Tod Kowalczyk.
"As a whole, we're very athletic and I want to take advantage of that athleticism to push the ball," Grzesk said.
Defensively, Lakeland has cracked the nation's top 20 in scoring defense the past two seasons. This season, that solid foundation will continue as Grzesk said he'll employ many of Bennett's philosophies.
"I played and learned under Dick Bennett, who is one of the best defensive coaches in the country," Grzesk said. "We'll do a lot of the same things he did at UW-Stevens Point, UW-Green Bay, with the Badgers and now at Washington State."
Lakeland's fortunes center around a solid group of returning players, led by a very good senior class.
Ricky Davis won LMC Player of the Year honors last winter, and backcourt mate Cory Nickel was a first team All-LMC player. They are driven to make their fourth and final season at Lakeland one to remember.
"Ricky had a great season last year," Grzesk said. "I'm looking for him to continue to find ways to improve. As Ricky goes, our team will go.
"Cory has a great all-around game. He can play a number of different positions. I feel really confident with the ball in Cory's hands because I know he's always going to make a good decision and do what's best for the team."
Seniors Danny Jansson, Morten Szmiedowicz and junior Nick Zeck, the latter two both honorable mention All-LMC honorees, are expected to play big roles this winter.
"Danny is the backbone and hub of the team," Grzesk said. "He's among the best on-ball defenders in the conference.
"I'll count on Morten's experience and versatility. At his size, he passes the ball very well, he can play out on the floor at times and he can post up as well. He has the potential to have a very strong senior year."
Senior Floyd Cruz only played in one game last season - a 16-point, 6-rebound performance in 27 minutes against Concordia - due to health problems. He's back this season and gives Lakeland another potent weapon.
"Floyd is the wildcard of the senior class," Grzesk said. "In one game last year, people saw what Floyd is capable of."