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Wheaton basketball is in transition but shouldn’t be dismissed

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Updated: January 8, 2014 11:54PM

With a history of success and a strong roster featuring the return of scoring leader Tyler Peters, Wheaton carried a top-10 ranking into the NCAA Division III basketball season. But the Thunder (9-4, 2-0 CCIW) slipped out of the top 25 before a 93-68 rout of visiting Elmhurst on Wednesday night. But coach Mike Schauer isn’t discouraged.

“I like where we are because I think most people have dismissed us,” Schauer said. “The public perception will be that we’re not as good as we actually are, and I kind of like being there, if that makes sense.

“We’re better than people think and that’s kind of a fun place to be.”

A little roster upheaval and a rugged nonconference schedule have been factors. The record includes losses at No. 2 Wooster and No. 7 Washington (Mo.).

“We’re kind of a team a little bit in transition,” Schauer said. “We had a player dismissed earlier in the year, and so our rotation has changed. Guys that have really stepped up since then are [6-6 sophomore forward] Michael Berg and [6-0 junior guard] Caleb DeMoss. Their minutes have gone up and their productivity has gone up as well.”

The main man once again is Peters, a 6-4 senior guard who led the CCIW with 18.5 points per game overall and 18.1 in league games. This season, he’s averaging 20.8 points along with 6.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists.

“Any conversation about our team does begin and end with Tyler, who is playing the best basketball certainly of his career and probably as well as anybody I’ve coached,” Schauer said. “He has been really spectacular the last five or six games.”

The No. 2 scorer is 6-2 guard Brayden Teuscher, who’s averaging 14.6 points per game.

“Brayden’s been a real steady player for us this year,” Schauer said. “He’s a tough matchup. He’s a very physical player as a guard. He actually scores a lot of his points just by overwhelming guys, getting to the basket.”

As Wheaton moves into CCIW play, Schauer sees a crowd-pleasing team, one that’s averaging 76 points per game.

“Hopefully [fans] would see a team that competes very hard, plays pressure man-to-man defense and tries to get out on transition,” he said. “We’re averaging into the high 70s, we can get up and down the floor, so we’re a fun team to watch.”

It’s academic

Linebacker Nick Slezak and golfer Mary Kate Rohn led North Central’s list of 73 athletes to earn Academic All-CCIW honors for the fall season.

Two athletes at each conference school are designated as Jack Swartz Academic All-Conference honorees. For the Cardinals, the men’s winner is Slezak, who led the league with 120 tackles, 20.5 tackles for loss and a school record 21 tackles in the national semifinal against Mount Union.

Rohn, the women’s Swartz award winner, won the individual title at the CCIW women’s golf championships. She’s a three-time National Golf Coaches Association All-Scholar Team selection.

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