This years’ Clarke University Basketball teams are ready to kick-off the winter season. The men’s team made some headway last year, and has big plans for this season. The women’s team is challenged with young and injured players, but their coach has faith they can pull through to have a successful season.
A 19-win season last winter has Coach Jerry Drymon's Clarke University basketball program headed in the right direction.
The Crusaders, who fashioned a 19-11 overall mark and a 10-8 mark in Midwest Collegiate Conference circles last year, tipped off the 2012-13 campaign November 2, at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois.
"Last year, I think we started to turn the corner to where we want to get to," said Drymon, who begins his fifth year with the Crusaders. "We played a very competitive schedule last year and had a lot of good victories."
Clarke lost seven seniors, including MCC All-Conference selections DJ Nunn (6-6, F, 9.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg) and Bryan Louff (5-11, G, 7.9 ppg, 93 assists, 46 steals), from last year's team. The list of departures also includes regulars Brock Zins (6-6, F, 6.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg) and Mike Schindel (6-3, F, 9.9 ppg, 4.5 rpg).
And so it’s back to the drawing board for Drymon with a new team that features a little bit different style of play this season. But's he's optimistic that this year's team can do some good things.
Luke Cassedy (6-1, Sr., G, Redding, Calif.), who averaged a team-high 10.7 points per game a year ago, heads the list key returning veterans. That list also includes last year's best defensive player, Jake Peterson (6-1, Sr., G, Norwalk, Iowa, 5.4 ppg, 3.3 rpg), inside player Kris Brooks (6-6, Sr., F/C, Hemet, Calif., 8.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg) and Brian O'Donnell (6-4, Sr., G, Aurora, Ill., 5.3 ppg), who has worked his way through the system and has a played a key role off the bench.
Newcomers to keep an eye on this year are freshman David Neis (5-11, G, Benton, Wis.), and transfers Jerrodd Brown (6-6, Jr., F, Houma, La.) and John Hedrington (6-1, Jr., F, Fresno, Calif).
Neis was a three-time Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association All-State selection at Benton High School, where he finished his career as the program's all-time leading scorer.
Brown comes to Clarke from North Dakota State College of Science, while Hedrington previously attended Reedley College.
"We'll face a more challenging schedule than last year," said Drymon. "We're optimistic that we can do some good things, but it will definitely be a challenge."
Clarke will make only two appearances on the Robert and Ruth Kehl Center hardwood before Christmas, a Nov. 19 date with Ashford University and a Dec. 2 matchup with Silver Lake College. The slate includes contests with a pair of NCAA Division II teams –Concordia University (St. Paul, Minn.) and UW-Parkside -as well as several nationally ranked NAIA squads.
Clarke will open MCC play with road tilts at Viterbo University (Jan. 3) and Grand View University (Jan. 5) before opening the home portion of its league schedule on Jan. 9 against Mount Mercy University.
Youth will again play a key role in the fortunes of the Clarke University women's basketball program, but Crusader head Coach Don Adams isn't letting that fact dampen his spirits for the 2012-13 season, which started November 2 at Trinity Christian College.
"I think we can be good this season," said Adams, who is in his third season at Clarke. "We're still going to be young, but we have a lot of talent and we just need to put it all together."
Adams’ squad got younger this pre-season with the loss of juniors Brittany Collier and Candis Kertson, both sidelined with season-ending injuries. Collier started 25 of the Crusaders' 29 games last winter. The former Midwest Collegiate Conference Newcomer of the Year averaged 10.3 points per game a year ago while collecting 61 steals and dishing out 70 assists. Kertson averagered 7.1 points and 4.3 boards through 16 contests.
With the loss of Collier and Kertson, a lot is going to fall onto the shoulders of freshmen and sophomores.
Sophomore Anna Hahn is the Crusaders' top returning player from last year's 7-22 team. The 6-1 forward from New Berlin, Wis., led Clarke in both scoring (11.7 ppg) and rebounding (5.4 rpg) last year. She started 28 games, shot 54.1 percent from the field and set a new single-season mark from the charity stripe, hitting 87.5 percent of her attempts.
A pair of highly-touted freshmen, 6-1 forward Katelyn Hoppman, of Hazel Green, Wis., and 5-7 guard Breland Prochaska, of Fennimore, Wis., will be called upon to contribute from the get-go.
"Katelyn and Breland will be playing a lot of minutes right away and that's where some of the growing pains will come from—from them learning the college game," said Adams.
Both Hoppman and Prochaska were first-team all-state selections. Prochaska ranked fourth in state scoring as a senior, averaging 23.4 points per outing, while Hoppman averaged 22.3 point per game, seventh best in the state.
Adams' squad will also benefit from the addition of transfers Elizabeth Mathias (5-10, So., F, Darlington, Wis.) and Gwen Sutter (5-10, Jr., G, Monroe, Wis.). Mathias comes to Clarke from UW-Platteville, while Sutter previously attended Cardinal Stritch University.
Adams said that despite its lack of experience, this year's team has the talent to get things done.
"We've really been concentrating on trying to be the best defensive team we can be, because you can do that any time of the year," Adams added. "The offense will get better as the year goes along and as the new athletes play with returning players."