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Joe Griffin puts start-up Roosevelt hoops program on winning path

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Updated: January 17, 2013 11:59PM



When Joe Griffin became men’s basketball coach at Roosevelt for the 2010-11 season, he knew he had a challenge. What he didn’t know was the full scope of what would be involved in starting a program from scratch at a school that had ended intercollegiate competition 21 years earlier.

“You learn more now about what it took than you knew going in,” said Griffin, who has turned the Lakers (13-8, 9-7 CCAC) in his third season. “I learned that just having a belief and a confidence — Nick Saban called it a process — but a belief and a confidence in your philosophy and knowing what it takes to get the job done is needed because the first two years are so rough.”

The Lakers inched up from 4-23 to 9-20 before breaking through this season. And with Robyn Scherr-Wells’ women’s basketball team on a roll at 16-5 after 13- and 15-victory seasons in their start-up, times are good at Roosevelt’s new 550-seat Goodman Arena.

On a team whose core consists of sophomores and juniors, Griffin relies on his one senior. That’s 6-6 forward Brandyn Denson, a transfer from Triton who averages 7.2 points and 7.9 rebounds.

“He has been the perfect senior because of his intangible leadership qualities,” said Griffin, who spent two years as a graduate assistant to Tom Izzo at his alma mater, Michigan State, then was an assistant at Eastern New Mexico for a year before coming to Roosevelt. “He’s a great teammate, ­extremely coachable, a hard worker, and he trusts our program.”

A group of five talented sophomores include the team’s top two scorers, guard Joe Harks (15.0 ppg) and forward Jeremiah Jackson (12.8 points, 8.0 rebounds), on a team that emphasizes defense and board work.

“I learned first-hand [at Michigan State] that defense and rebounding is the best way to win games and to sustain success,” Griffin said. “Your defense can be a constant night in and night out.”

Elmhurst strong

Elmhurst lived up to its No. 2 National Wrestling Coaches Association Ranking at the National Duals championships in Springfield. The Bluejays lost only to No. 1 Wartburg, while beating No. 30 Wesleyan, No. 10 Wisconsin-Whitewater and No. 3 SUNY-Cortland.

Bluejays 141-pounder Steve Earley was named the meet’s Most Outstanding Wrestler after going 4-0. A returning national qualifier at 149 pounds, Earley has dropped a class and is off to a 14-0 start.

New at Concordia

Randy Awrey, whose 30 years of coaching experience includes 19 as a head coach, has been hired for Concordia’s vacant football job. Lonnie Pries left the position after an 10-1 season that included an NCAA Division III playoff appearance.

Awrey has spent the last four seasons as defensive coordinator at Northern Michigan. He’s 124-68-1 as a head coach, including 76-27 from 1999-2007 at Saginaw Valley State, where he is the winningest coach in school history.



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