Clarke University men's basketball enthusiasts can expect to see fast paced games featuring a very aggressive offense and defensive style of play on the hardwood winter, according to sixth-year Crusader Head Coach Jerry Drymon. And with the loss of four key seniors from a year ago, Drymon says Clarke basketball followers will also need to familiarize themselves with several new players.
"We will have one of the quickest teams I have had at Clarke, said Drymon, who led the Crusaders to a 13-16 overall mark last year and a 6-6 showing in the Midwest Collegiate Conference. "We will rely on pressing and ball pressure in the half court to create turnovers to speed up the game. It should be an exciting style for the players and fans."
Tre Wagner (6-1, Jr., G, Loves Park, Ill.), Franz Winkler (6-4, Jr., G, Lutherstadt, Germany) and John Hedrington (6-3, Sr., F, Fresno, Calif.) are the top returning performers from last year's squad.
Drymon is expecting significant contributions from Wagner.
"Tre has made significant strides in his game since he arrived at Clarke," said Drymon. He has done a great job of listening to the ways he can improve and then incorporating them into his game.
Wagner started 14 games last winter and averaged 9.8 points per game. He dished out 56 assists and had 34 steals.
Winkler is one of the top 3-point shooters in the MCC. He led the Crusaders in three-point field goals made (53). Winkler started 18 games, averaging 7.1 points per game.
And Hedrington is emerging as one of Clarke's team leaders. He averaged 6.8 points and 4.6 rebounds last year.
"John has really stepped up his game offensively," said Drymon. He should be one of our best rebounders as well."
Missing from this year's mix are four key contributors from last year's squad, including MCC first-team all-conference performer Kris Brooks (F, 15 ppg, 8.1 rpg), and MCC honorable mention all-conference picks Luke Cassedy (G, 12.7 ppg, 3 rpg) and Jake Petersen (PG, 4.8 ppg, 2.9 rpg). Petersen paced the team in both assists (99) and steals (41). Brian O'Donnell chipped in 3.6 points per game.
Newcomers to watch this season are David Howard (6-3, Jr., G, El Segundo, Calif.), Dominique McKinzie (6-4, Jr., F, Omaha, Neb.), and Phil Hansen (6-6, So., F, Denmark).
Howard was an all-league performer at El Camino Community College and can play multiple positions for the Crusaders. McKinzie, a transfer from McCook Community College, is a very good defensive player and a tremendous rebounder, while Hansen, a transfer from Grand Rapids Community College, will provide Drymon's squad with an excellent outside and inside threat.
Clarke will open the new campaign at the Trinity International University Tournament in Deerfield, Ill., this weekend. The Crusaders will face Waldorf College at 4 p.m. on Friday and Northland International University at 2 p.m. on Saturday. Drymon's squad will play at Morningside College (Nov. 8) and at Briar Cliff University (Nov. 9) before making its home debut on November 13 against Trinity International.
The Crusaders' first taste Midwest Collegiate Conference competition will come on Jan. 8, when Viterbo University invades the Robert and Ruth Kehl Center.
"Our conference should be challenging," said Drymon. : William Penn will be ranked in the preseason polls and Grand View and Viterbo both return four starters. "
"Our schedule features our rivalry game with the University of Dubuque as well nationally ranked NAIA and NCAA II teams," added Drymon. "We believe in playing a challenging non-conference schedule so we are prepared for conference play."