MOUNT PLEASANT – An intriguing blend of veterans and newcomers highlights the 2008-09 Iowa Wesleyan College men’s basketball team, which opens its season Thursday night against Hannibal-LaGrange (Mo.) College.
The Tigers host the Trojans at 5 p.m. at Ruble Arena tomorrow night, the start time moved up two hours earlier than originally scheduled because of IWC’s Midwest Collegiate Conference tourney volleyball match that will follow. The non-conference game marks the start of the winter sports season and the basketball season at IWC.
This year, IWC hopes to improve on last year’s 13-16 overall mark and 9-7 conference record that included a third-place finish in the MCC. The Tigers also will look to get rid of the bad taste left by an 88-87 double-overtime loss to St. Ambrose University in the quarterfinals of the MCC Tournament in which the Bees banked in a 30-foot shot at the buzzer to win.
The 2007-08 season may not have left a sparkling overall record, but the conference finish still represented an accomplishment, an improvement after finishing sixth in the MCC the year before. The Tigers also had one of their biggest regular season wins in school history, a 79-71 win at eventual MCC champion William Penn University when the Statesmen were ranked fifth in the country.
Any discussion of the 2008-09 team will begin with 6-4 senior Brett Humpal (Decorah, Iowa), who already is one of the most decorated players in school history. Last season Humpal averaged 18.6 points, 8.2 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.8 steals per game in earning Second Team NAIA Division II All-America honors for the second straight year.
He is the first Tiger to ever be named at least second team All-America for two straight years, and his award marked the eighth straight year IWC has had a player selected for All-America honors. This season he also was named a preseason All-American by the Victory Sports Network, which listed him as one of the top eight players in the nation in NAIA Division II.
“Brett’s a special player,” said IWC Head Coach Alan Magnani, who is entering his 13th season and is the winningest coach in program history. “He definitely has left his mark and will continue to leave his mark as one of the best players in Wesleyan history.
Humpal swings between the backcourt and frontcourt with equal skill and has done a little of everything the past two years. Sometimes that has been by necessity, such as last year when a number of players left the team at midseason, leaving a shortened roster for conference season.
“We count on him for a lot of different things,” Magnani said. “Hopefully we can relieve some of that burden this year with the players we have returning and have brought into the program.”
Also returning in the backcourt will be 6-3 senior Jason Garber (Emden, Ill.) and 6-2 junior Josh Hogue (Oxford, Iowa). Garber started 22 games for the Tigers last year and also showed versatility, averaging 7.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game while playing the point or off the ball.
“Jason is one of those guys you can move him around, he’s very versatile,” Magnani said. “He’s going to start at the ‘one’ (point guard) for us. He’s not flashy, but he’s going to get the job done. He’s a winner, he knows how to play the game and he understands how to get things done the way we want them to be done.”
Hogue joined the starting lineup the second half of the season and averaged 7.1 points per game. He is one of the team’s top three-point shooters (51 three-point goals, 40.8% last year) and has improved his all-around game as well.
“He’s come a long way in his career here,” Magnani said. “He’s a solid college basketball player who still has room to improve. He’s comfortable with our system and understands our system very well.”
Returning in the frontcourt will be seniors Matt Lafrenz (Bennett, Iowa) and Brad Leverston (Markham, Ill.). The 6-9 Lafrenz started 21 games last year and averaged 8.0 points and 4.0 rebounds per game, while the 6-5 Leverston averaged 8.7 points and 4.6 rebounds off the bench and was particularly strong powering the ball in down low. He led the MCC in field goal percentage, making 61.3% of his shots.
Also returning this year are 5-11 senior Michael Coons (Hannibal, Mo.), who averaged 3.9 points per game in 12 games, and 6-5 junior Mike Lowe (Panora, Iowa), who played in 23 games and gave the team good minutes off the bench last year.
The list of newcomers includes 6-6 Da’kari Shelby (O’Fallon, Ill.), who joins the program this year as a senior after playing at NAIA William Woods (Mo.) University. Last year he was named Second Team All-American Midwest Conference while averaging 10.1 points and 5.8 rebounds a game while playing under former IWC assistant Drew Grzella.
Junior transfer Keenan Stanbridge (Quincy, Ill.), is a 6-2 guard who comes from John Wood Community College. He led John Wood in steals and three-pointers made last year and will join Garber and Hogue in a three-guard lineup.
Other newcomers in the backcourt include 5-10 juniors Jared Callanan (Bennington, Vt.) and Ronnie Williams (Green Castle, Ind.) and 5-11 junior Patrick Macki (London, England). Callanan comes from Massasoit Community College in Massachusetts, while both Williams and Macki played at two-year schools in the Midwest the past two years.
Rounding out the roster is 6-4 junior post player Weldon Miller (San Rafael, Calif.) and 6-1 freshman guard Chandler Wilson (Doniphan, Mo.). Miller comes from the College of Marin in California, while Wilson is the younger brother of former IWC All-American Nic Wilson, the 2002-03 MCC Player of the Year.
Besides the presence of an All-American, Magnani cites the team’s experience and returning core of players as some of the team’s biggest strengths. “We have players at all positions, post players, perimeter players, who understand how we play,” he said.
The team’s biggest challenge may be blending into a cohesive unit that plays the way Magnani wants. “What we’re working on developing most,” he said, “is getting everybody on the same page of how we do things in our program, and the importance of why we do it versus the way they may have done it before.”
IWC was picked third in the Midwest Collegiate Conference in a preseason poll of league coaches, but Magnani noted past results rarely show a mirror between the preseason poll and the final standings.
“If there’s anything true about our league, I don’t think there’s ever been a year where you can take the preseason rating and the end rating and their close to the same,” he said, “and that’s because of how good the players are, how competitive this league is, and how good the coaching is in this league.”
For more information regarding the IWC men’s basketball program or any of the Tiger athletic teams, contact sports information director Adam Glatczak (319-385-6306 phone; 319-385-6384 FAX; email@example.com e-mail) or log on to IWC's athletics web site at www.iwc.edu/athletics.