Bench key to men’s early success

Junior Nick Waddell makes a drive to the basket

Nicole Lamson

Junior Nick Waddell makes a drive to the basket

Brady Fredericksen

At times, basketball is full of glamour and publicity. When things are going well, the starting five and coaches receive most of that credit. When the going is rough, the starting five and coaches receive most of the blame as well.

Sometimes lost in the mix is the role of the bench players, an integral part of any successful basketball team. However, such is not the case for the No. 16 Grand Valley State University men’s basketball team, whose depth has been vital to its early season success.

“If you’ve followed our program recently, our bench has been strong for six straight years,” said GVSU head coach Ric Wesley, who uses a 10-man rotation on most nights. “We have pride in the fact that we have depth, and we have a lot of guys who work hard every day to prepare to play. Over the years we’ve worked hard to develop that and give guys opportunities to contribute.”

Wesley’s teams at GVSU have esteemed themselves on depth and suffocating defense. This year’s squad has provided one of the GLIAC’s top starting units, and the reserves have been among the best in the league as well.

Led by strong guard play and size down low, the reserves have provided a spark for the Lakers all season. Whether it’s the three-point shooting of junior Wes Trammell and senior K’Len Morris, the all-around play of sophomore Tony Peters or the inside presence of sophomore Nick Carreri and junior Nick Waddell, the reserves have picked up right where the starters left off in each game this season.

“Our main goal is to be a factor in every game and to help the team win,” said Trammell, the primary backup to sophomore starting point guard Breland Hogan. “We want to come in and play hard every minute to wear out teams that don’t have a strong bench.”

Putting up almost 37 bench points per contest is one reason why GVSU currently leads the GLIAC in scoring at 86 points per game. The ability to give the starters a breather while still putting forth a competitive effort is something on which the bench prides itself.

“When you have a good bench, you can be more aggressive with your game plan because you can rest your players more,” Morris said. “We’re lucky compared to most teams because we can send waves of different line-ups that can compete with anyone.”

Another wrinkle the team has yet to fully master is the integration of players into that crowded rotation. Morris missed the first two games of the season and recently made his season-debut in the team’s win over St. Joseph’s College of Indiana.

As the season progresses the Lakers will welcome back two more senior contributors from last season’s team in center Mike Przydzial and forward Toreau Brown. Przydzial, who has been recovering from a knee injury, and Brown, ruled academically ineligible for the fall semester, were starters last season and will strengthen the team’s depth upon their return.

“By playing a lot of players, our team is used to different combinations,” Wesley said. “A line-up change is not that big of a deal because we use different combinations of players every day in practice.”

With the conference season beginning today against Ohio Dominican University, the team hopes to continue its balanced attack as the season moves along.

“We feel like we can change the momentum of a game because we can compete with any team’s starters,” Morris said. “We believe our bench is more talented then the next team’s, and we just have to be mentally ready to step on the floor and produce whenever our name is called.”

[email protected]