Olivet Nazarene men's, women's basketball teams ready for new season
The Olivet Nazarene University (ONU) men’s basketball team will begin its 2016-17 season on Oct. 29 at home against Goshen College.
The ONU Tigers will play 30 games, with 19 conference games that start early in November, including a tournament at Indiana.
“Conference and non-conference schedules are going to be very tough,” veteran head coach Ralph Hodge said. “That is the way we like it.”
The Tigers will have 24 players between its varsity and junior varsity program, with 14 on its varsity roster. The Tigers lost seven seniors last year who made up about 90 percent of their scoring and rebounding, including leading scorer and rebounder Aaron Larson, who was the second leading career scorer in team history.
“We probably had the most dominant post game in the conference last year, but we are a different team,” Hodge said.
Five seniors will make up the squad, led by Tyler Crater, a wing player and guard-forward who came off the bench last season to be one of the team’s leading scorers and fourth leading minutes player in team history.
“Tyler played a great role as sixth man last season,” Hodge said. “He will have a starting position and hopefully giving us that leadership.”
A returning starter will be junior Chris Green.
“He was our best three-point shooter last year,” Hodge said. “He played significant minutes last year. He’s a guy we can count on on that perimeter.”
Hodge said senior Ryan Carl will have an opportunity to step into a starting role.
“He has grown and developed in our JV program,” Hodge said.
The Tigers will have more freshmen and inexperienced players on the floor this season. “The team is young and inexperienced at the college level, but we are excited about the talent pool and what the freshman class brings to us,” Hodge said. “There will be four or five freshmen who will see significant playing time, with the likelihood of two or three of them becoming starters right away.”
Hodge said the Tigers have question marks at every position.
”I think talent-wise and skill-wise, our perimeter game is going to be the best part of our game, but it’s a young team, and we are going to need to get that post game to catch up” Hodge said. “Many would look at it and say it is a rebuilding year, but that is not my approach. Our goal is to win the conference and to qualify for the national tournament.”
The ONU women’s basketball team will begin its 2016-17 season on Oct. 28 at home in an exhibition game against Kankakee Community College.
The ONU Tigers are coming off a successful 29-5 season. The Tigers will have 17 players on its roster this season, with 12 returners.
“We have a big junior class, and it’s a good solid group,” head coach Lauren Stamatis said.
Stamatis said the team strengths this season are quickness and athleticism, and that the talent is distributed equally.
“We play team-oriented, and this year’s team, the talent is even across the board," Stamatis said. "We have many great contributors who will mesh together, and we are excited. We have a solid class of four freshmen coming in who will contribute immediately and that is exciting.”
The Tigers feature a run-and-gun style of play.
“We will look to run the fast break at every position, press all the time, and sub in groups of five every 30 seconds to a minute,” Stamatis said. “It is pretty fast-paced. There are only a small handful of teams who play the way that we do.”
The Tigers broke their own national scoring record of 109 points a game last season.
Stamatis said the team has good team chemistry that stems from its style of play.
The team also will emphasize character and leadership development this season.
“The game of basketball allows you to teach and develop those,” Stamatis said. “My hope is that when they graduate, the players are strong, confident women of faith who can go out and make an impact using their own God-given gifts in the world.”
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