Men’s basketball tips off against Division I team tonight

GVL Archive /Brian B. Sevald
KLen Morris outruns the Findlay defense in a previous game.

GVL Archive /Brian B. Sevald K’Len Morris outruns the Findlay defense in a previous game.

Brady Fredericksen

Talent is an obvious necessity for a good team, but continuity between teammates can be the most important part of a team’s success.

This season, the Grand Valley State University men’s basketball team will look to their chemistry and talent to create something special in Allendale.

“I don’t know that I’ve ever been involved with a team that was successful and didn’t have great chemistry,” said seventh-year Head Coach Ric Wesley. “Most of the time it’s not as much a lack of talent that causes teams to not do well, but it’s a just pulling apart from within.”

The team, with 12 players returning from last year’s NCAA Tournament squad, will look for big plays out of seniors K’Len Morris and Justin Ringler, as well as junior Alvin Storrs. Storrs and Ringler, a Sporting News preseason All-American, enter the season as GVSU’s All-GLIAC team representatives.

“As a team, we’re really trying to focus on one goal at a time,” said Morris, the team’s second leading three-point shooter in 2010. “We know that if we can accomplish each one, it will lead to us closer to fighting for the national championship.”

After a first-place finish in the GLIAC North Division last season, the Lakers are predicted to repeat as champs in 2011. They received 22 of 25 votes in the GLIAC preseason media poll.

The team also enters the season ranked No. 3 in The Sporting News’ preseason top-10 poll – its highest ranking since being ranked No. 1 in the 2007-08 season.

“We really don’t spend a lot of time talking about (the rankings), but it’s nice to know that people think well about our team,” Wesley said. “At the same time, generally we’re ranked below another team (No. 1 University of Findlay) in our conference as well as other teams in our region.

“That’s a pretty good sign that there’s tough times ahead, and it’s the team that perseveres through those times that will be higher in the rankings at the end,” he added.

As a proponent of larger in-game rotations, Wesley hopes to see improvement and contributions from players like sophomore guard Breland Hogan, guard/forward Storrs and the team’s two junior college additions: juniors Nick Waddell and James Thomas.

“I think our two junior college players, Thomas and Waddle, are new but experienced players,” Wesley said. “They appear ready to step in there and contribute for us right away.”

Consistently ranking near the top of the conference in defense remains the staple of Wesley-coached teams at GVSU, but the Lakers will also focus on offense. While Ringler is the team’s top player, Wesley hopes to see a more consistent supporting cast around his All-American in 2011.

“I hope that he can just relax and enjoy himself. He’s a workhorse-type guy with great competitive spirit – he just does a little bit of everything,” said Wesley, the 2007-08 Basketball Times’ Coach of the Year. “I’m hoping he doesn’t have to do as much this season, but more that he just relaxes and plays like the kind of player we all know he’s capable of being.”

Tonight the Lakers will travel to Dayton, Ohio to take on University of Dayton, defending NIT Tournament champion and Division I program. The opportunity to play a Division I team in an exhibition game is something the players had the chance to experience last season when they took the floor against Michigan State University.

“Playing Dayton gives us an opportunity to play one of the top teams in the country,” said junior guard Wes Trammell, who averaged 4.9 points per game last season. “It’ll be a big challenge for us, but it’ll also be a fun experience playing in front of an energetic crowd. It’s just another test on where we are at to start the season.”

The regular season begins for GVSU on Nov. 13 when they take on non-conference opponent Marygrove College at home. While the importance of the regular season is apparent, the biggest point of this team’s season may come in March. The magic of college basketball is centered on the NCAA Tournament, and while the Lakers will take things one game at a time, the postseason is when they hope to hit their stride.

“Our focus is on working hard every day and building our r?©sum?© so hopefully we can be one of those 64 teams playing in the postseason.” Wesley said. “You know, we talk a lot about doing our very best each and every day and, to me, if you’re good enough to get to the NCAA Tournament then anything can happen.”

[email protected]