Story by Madison Wilder, The Saint Reporter
Photo Courtesy of Andris Visockis
The 2014-15 Aquinas Men’s Basketball team proved to be successful finishing with a winning record of 19-13 last year. As the 2015-16 season approaches, players have begun preparing for the upcoming tournament at the Indiana Wesleyan WHAC-Crossroads Challenge on Oct. 30.
Head coach David Hammer has a few new players who may bring some surprises as the season begins. This includes first-year’s TJ Hunter and Taylor White. Hammer also lists Grand Valley State University transfer, Rashaud Orange, as a key player this year.
“Rashaud Orange is one of the best athletes in the conference,” said Hammer. “[He has the] ability to score in the open court and half court and is an explosive player.”
Hammer also highlighted senior point guard Jacob Bullock as a key player because of his leadership as well as his consistency on the court. Last season, Bullock was the second leading scorer, averaging 7.75 points per game. Bullock believes that along with himself, the returning seniors will allow the Saints to dominate the court.
“Our four seniors Zac VanBeek, Loren Johnson, Bryan Mitzner and Kail Venema will play key roles this year as returners and I believe I also must contribute for our team to be successful,” said Bullock.
VanBeek and Mitzner were right behind Bullock as the third and fourth leading scorers with VanBeek averaging 6.61 points per game and Mitzner with a 6.53 average points per game. Johnson averaged 2.97 blocks per game last season, while also contributing 55 points and 70 assists total. Venema was third on the team in rebounds averaging 3.13 per game and put up 116 points for the Saints throughout the season.
Over the course of the season, the Saints will be competing in a difficult conference, one of the toughest Hammer has seen since his time as coach. Their opponents include two teams that were previously in the Final Four NAIA II national tournament, including Cornerstone, who won the national tournament.
“[We] Always want to win a league championship and strive to win a national championship,” Bullock said.
The team will face several challenges this season, including integrating new team members onto the court which may be difficult, as well as dealing with injuries.
“We have had several injuries in early pre-season practices,” Hammer said. “Once we get these players back we will start building for the season.”
Hammer has high expectations.
“This should be an exciting team to watch.”