SMALL COLLEGES: Unselfish, balanced Illinois Wesleyan sharing in team success
Throughout the men’s basketball season, the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin has had a large presence in the NCAA Division III rankings at D3Hoops.com. No. 11 North Central held the No. 1 spot for a week, No. 20 Wheaton has been ranked all season and Augustana has been in and out of the poll.
But the league’s rising star has been Illinois Wesleyan. The Titans (19-3, 11-0) kept a three-game lead on North Central with an 88-44 rout of North Park (6-16, 1-10) on Wednesday night in Bloomington. Up three spots to No. 9 in the latest poll, IWU is rolling with “a group of hard-working, unselfish, coachable guys,” said coach Ron Rose.
Wesleyan has averaged 72 points a game, but no one is averaging more than 6-3 guard Pat Sodemann’s 11.9 points he has put up after missing the first seven games. Andrew Ziemnick, a 6-4 forward and the CCIW player of the week the last two weeks, leads among those who have played all 21 games at 11.3. Five Titans are averaging at least 8.5 points.
“Kind of our mantra is the extra pass,” Rose said. “One more. Our guys have really taken to that. We like to get up and down the floor and I think we’ve been able to typically put five guys on the floor that the opposing defense has to guard. We talk a lot about being ridiculously unselfish, and this team has embraced that.”
Rose said that’s in part down to his senior captains — 6-6 center-forward Kevin Reed (9.2 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists) and 6-2 Dan Oswald, in a bench role at guard.
“Kevin has had a terrific senior year,” Rose said. “He’s a unique post player because he’s such a great passer. He has a nose for the ball, and he’s just a very smart basketball player. I think it always starts with your seniors, and those two guys have really led by example.”
St. Francis, ranked No. 19 in the NAIA coaches’ preseason baseball poll, got off to a 4-0 start over the weekend by sweeping Mount Mercy in the Metrodome in Minneapolis. Brad Porter was 8-for-15 with five RBI for the weekend, while fellow outfielder Tim Reichert went 5-for-10, including a walkoff RBI single in the 10th for a 4-3 victory in the finale. Adam Panayotovich and Ryan Gill each won their starts without allowing an earned run.
The Saints enter the season looking for a fourth consecutive bid to the NAIA championships.
Courtney Nurczyk was named Concordia women’s athlete of the week after setting a school record of 47.52 seconds in a third-place finish in the 300-meter dash at the Wisconsin-Parkside Open. She also finished third in the triple jump with a 31-0, helping the Cougars to a second-place finish.
The men’s honoree also came in track, where Jamal Thomas won the triple jump at Parkside in his first action of the season. Thomas’ 45-5.25 leap is second on the school’s all-time list.