William Penn 2013-2014 Men’s Basketball Preview
2013-2014 Men’s Basketball Preview
2012-2013 record: 34-2 (12-0 MCC, 1st)
Starters returning/lost: 1/4
Letterwinners returning/lost: 3/9
Blake Walker, Sr., Rose Garden, Ga.
(Honorable-team all-MCC, 7.7 points/game, 5.1 rebounds/game, 4.9 assists/game, 1.0 steals/game)
Kevin Fay, Sr., Hennepin, Ill.
(Honorable-mention all-MCC, 10.7 points/game, 76 three-pointers)
Erik McGee, Jr., Oskaloosa, Iowa
(Letterwinner, 30 points, 30 rebounds)
Kelly Madison, Jr., Des Moines, Iowa
Marc Wilson, Sr., Los Angeles, Calif.
Alec Schwab, Jr., Peru, Ill.
Roberts Baltruns, So., Riga, Latvia
If, and hopefully when, the Statesmen men’s basketball team returns to the national tournament in March, the only question will be, “Was the 2013-2014 campaign a rebuild or a reload”?
An unbelievable 2012-2013 campaign concluded with a trip to the program’s first-ever national title game. William Penn was 34-2 last year (12-0 Midwest Collegiate Conference), highlighted by winning streaks of 14 and 20 games.
“Last year was an unbelievable dream season,” Head Coach John Henry said. “We were ridiculously good and it was a lot of fun.”
Unfortunately, reality has sunk in with most of last year’s squad gone with graduation. On the plus side of the equation, the navy and gold do return two all-MCC performers in Blake Walker (Sr., Rose Garden, Ga., Physical Education) and Kevin Fay (Sr., Hennepin, Ill., Education), both of whom earned honorable-mention nods a year ago.
“As great as last year was, a new year is here and it is time to move on,” Henry said. “There will be a lot of new faces, but any time you have two all-league players back, the cupboards are certainly not bare. Blake and Kevin were a big part of what we did last year and they will have to provide leadership early on to help the new guys understand how we do things.”
Walker, the only player in school history to have eclipsed 1,000 points and 400 assists in a career, will pace the Statesmen from the point.
The senior excelled in all areas last winter, averaging 7.7 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 4.9 assists in addition to 35 steals and 15 blocks.
“Blake has great floor presence and can both see the open player and get him the ball,” Henry said. “We will rely on him a lot, especially in the early weeks.”
Newcomers Vonzell Groom (Jr., Baltimore, Md., Physical Education) and Mike Aldeman (Jr., Iowa City, Iowa, Physical Education) will battle for the starting slot as well and may actually get more time up there than expected to give Walker time on the wings.
“Vonzell and Mike are both tremendous on-the-ball defenders,” Henry said. “We are hoping with their additions that we can get Blake out on the wing as he is really dangerous off the ball.”
If Groom and Aldeman can control the point position, Walker will add to the many wing options for William Penn.
Joining him will be Fay as well as a tremendous new group of Kelly Madison (Jr., Des Moines, Iowa, Physical Education), Alec Schwab (Jr., Peru, Ill., Business Management), Tyler Stahle (So., Bountiful, Utah, Business Management), Logan Alexander (So., Eddyville, Iowa, Physical Education), and Jesse Utt (Fr., Cowgill, Mo., Industrial Technology).
Fay averaged 10.7 points and 3.3 rebounds per contest. He tallied 76 three-pointers, including tying a school single-game record with ten against Nebraska Christian.
“We expect Kevin to start at one of our wing positions, but the other spot is wide open,” Henry said. “Fortunately, we feel that whoever we put there will do a great job. Each player brings a different skill-set and ability and all have worked hard in the preseason to prove themselves.”
Marc Wilson (Sr., Los Angeles, Calif., Physical Education) and Shane Bosek (Jr., Lowry, Minn., Physical Education) are new to the WPU system, but their abilities should make their learning curve much easier.
“Marc and Shane are both crazy athletic and can do it all on the floor offensively,” Henry said. “They must learn how to play better defense, though, and hustle the ‘WP’ way.”
While Erik McGee (Jr., Oskaloosa, Iowa, Elementary Education) has not, and still may not, get as much fanfare as his two fellow returning lettermen, his impact on this year’s squad could be even larger as he will be one of the few options in the blocks for a small, but very athletic Statesmen squad.
McGee scored 30 points with 30 rebounds in 19 games off the bench for WPU.
“Erik has seen limited action in his first two years here, but that might change a lot this year,” Henry said. “He has shown tremendous improvement with a great summer and fall. I honestly do not know if I have had a player improve more from one season to the next.”
Roberts Baltruns (So., Riga, Latvia, Business Management) and Sam Sykes (Jr., Houston, Texas, Business Management) will compete with McGee for the starting center position.
Bolstering practice sessions will be redshirts Rasheed Merritt (Fr., Marietta, Ga., History/Government) and Jobe Ellison (Fr., Delhi, Iowa, Physical Education).
A punishing non-conference schedule awaits William Penn, beginning with the season opener Friday against perennial power Morningside.
“This is going to be a really tough non-conference slate, especially in the first couple weeks,” Henry said. “Our guys will have to gel quickly in order for us to keep our heads above water.”
The Statesmen received their just desserts as the league’s coaches picked them to defend the MCC crown. It should be a difficult road to hoe, though, as Viterbo returns nearly all of its team and perennial power St. Ambrose is also in the mix.
“I really do not know what to expect this year,” Henry said. “I know we will play hard and we will be exciting to watch. I just hope everyone, including our supporters, keep things in perspective. While last year was fun and amazing, I hope everyone supports this year’s team in all of their achievements.”