Valparaiso (0-1, 0-0 Horizon)
Game #2: Friday, Nov. 11 - 6:30 p.m. CST
at Georgia Southern (0-0, 0-0 SoCon)
Hanner Fieldhouse (4,358)
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: Valparaiso continues to rack up the miles on its season-opening two-game road trip, traveling to Statesboro, Ga. to face off against Georgia Southern Friday evening at 6:30 p.m. CST.
Last Time Out: Valparaiso led for much of the first half Monday evening at #16/16 Arizona and trailed by just two at the half, but a 16-3 run to start the second half proved too much for the Crusaders to overcome, as Valpo fell by a final of 73-64 in its first game as part of the 2K Sports Classic Benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer. Ryan Broekhoff and Kevin Van Wijk tied for game-high honors with 18 points apiece, while Broekhoff also added nine rebounds.
Following the Crusaders: Every game this season will be available on the Valpo Sports Radio Network, with Friday's game broadcast live on WAKE (1500 AM, Valparaiso) and WEFM (95.9 FM, Michigan City). Todd Ickow is back for his 20th season on play-by-play. The live audio will also be available at www.valpoathletics.com, with live stats available through the official Crusader website as well.
Head Coach Bryce Drew: Bryce Drew debuted on Monday evening, as he was named the 21st head coach in the history of the Valparaiso men’s basketball program on May 17, 2011. Just the fourth new head coach to grace the Crusader sidelines in the last 31 years, Drew had spent the last six seasons as a member of the Crusader coaching staff before earning the head position. He famously hit the game-winning shot against Ole Miss for Valpo in the first round of the 1998 NCAA Tournament to cap an illustrious Crusader career, before going on to a seven-year professional career, six of which were spent in the NBA.
Series Notes: The Crusaders and Eagles have met just once on the hardwood in program history, but that meeting came just two years ago, also down in Statesboro as part of the Legends Classic. In that matchup, it was Valpo which came out ahead with a 97-89 victory in a game in which Brandon Wood set a new Legends Classic scoring record, as well as a Valpo Division I record, by pouring in 39 points. Wood connected on 13-of-18 from the floor and 10-of-12 from the free throw line for his impressive output. Ryan Broekhoff and Cory Johnson each added 14 points in the winning effort as well.
The Road Ahead: The Crusaders open the regular season home slate Monday, Nov. 14 versus Holy Cross [Ind.] College and remain at home the next weekend to host a subregional of the 2K Sports Classic Benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer. Valpo will host six total games over the three-day tournament, with the Crusaders set to take on Akron on Friday, IU Kokomo on Saturday and Duquesne on Sunday.
Valpo Tabbed Fifth in Preseason Poll: Valparaiso was picked to finish in fifth place in the Horizon League preseason poll conducted of the league’s coaches, sports information directors, and media members. The Crusaders tallied 255 points in the polling. Preseason league favorite Butler received 28 of the 50 first-place votes, while Detroit was picked second and received 19 first-place votes. Cleveland State (2 first-place votes) and Milwaukee (1 first-place vote) were chosen third and fourth ahead of the Crusaders, while Green Bay was just behind Valpo in sixth position. Youngstown State, Wright State, Loyola and UIC rounded out the polling in order.
A Look Back at 2010-2011: Valparaiso is coming off of its tenth postseason appearance in the last 16 seasons, having earned a berth into the CollegeInsider.com Tournament (CIT) last season. The Crusaders won 23 total games in 2010-2011, their greatest number of victories since the 2001-2002 season. Valpo also went 12-6 in Horizon League, posting its best record in league play since entering the HL and finishing just one game out of a share of the regular season title.
A Lot to Replace: The Crusaders have a lot of production to replace entering the 2011-2012 season, as they lost 60.5% of their scoring from last year’s squad, as well as more than 40% of their rebounding, assists and steals from a season ago. Cory Johnson (Second Team All-HL in 2009-2010; 14.1 PPG, 4.5 RPG), Howard Little (Valpo’s all-time leader in games played and eighth all-time in steals; 9.5 PPG, 4.9 RPG) and Michael Rogers (5.0 PPG, 3.1 RPG) all were graduating seniors on last year’s team, while Brandon Wood (Two-time All-HL honoree, First Team honoree in 2010-2011; 16.7 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 3.1 APG) graduated following his junior season of eligibility and transferred to Michigan State.
What They Have Back: Even with the losses, Valpo still has eight letterwinners returning from a season ago, including a pair of starters in junior Ryan Broekhoff (10.3 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 44.8% 3PT) and redshirt junior Erik Buggs (3.1 APG). Junior Matt Kenney (6.0 PPG, 3.9 RPG) averaged over 23 minutes a game off the bench last year, while sophomore Jay Harris (5.1 PPG) and junior Kevin Van Wijk (5.1 PPG) each played at least 13 minutes a contest as well. In addition, Tommy Kurth returns after sitting out last season as a medical redshirt.
Two Road Games to Start: Playing back-to-back true road games to start the season is an unusual sight for the Crusader men’s basketball team. Just one other time in the last 15 years has Valpo played two straight true road games to start a season. It was the 2004-2005 season, when the Crusaders lost against Cincinnati and Central Michigan in their respective home arenas before returning home for a home opener against Charlotte.
Racking Up the Miles: While Friday marks just the Crusaders’ second game of the season, they already will have racked up plenty of travel miles in the early going. The flight from Chicago to Tucson for the game against Arizona is 1,430 miles one way, while the flight from Chicago to Atlanta is 591 miles one way, with a 207-mile bus ride to Statesboro following the flight.
A Lonely Banner: Each year’s senior class has banners hung inside the ARC during their senior season, but this season, there is just one men’s basketball banner hanging from the rafters. Walk-on guard Nick Shelton is the lone member of this year’s senior class.
Calling All Captains: With no scholarship seniors on this year’s squad, Valpo looks to a trio of juniors to lead the way as the captains for the 2011-2012 team. Ryan Broekhoff, Erik Buggs and Matt Kenney will share the captaincy this season.
Not Many Freshmen Either: The scales are even in terms of seniors and freshmen on this year’s Crusader squad. While Valpo has five newcomers joining the program this year, just one of them, Jamaican Vashil Fernandez, is in his first season of collegiate eligibility.
A Short Bench: Valpo enters the regular season with just nine scholarship players available to step on the court. Bobby Capobianco must sit out the entire season after transferring to Valpo from Indiana, while Ben Boggs has to sit out at least the first semester after arriving at Valpo at the semester break last year from Virginia Tech. Meanwhile, Vashil Fernandez remains unavailable pending a ruling from the NCAA on his status.
Broekhoff a Second Team All-League Pick: Junior Ryan Broekhoff earned a spot on the preseason All-League Second Team after scoring 10.3 points per game and averaging a team-best 5.2 rebounds per game as a sophomore. The Crusaders’ leading returning scorer, Broekhoff led the Horizon League last year, hitting 44.8% of his 3-point attempts. The junior also ranked among the league’s top-10 in blocked shots/game (1.1, 6th), 3-pointers made/game (1.8, 7th) and assist/turnover ratio (1.54, 8th). Broekhoff scored 10 late points Monday against #16/16 Arizona to finish tied for game-high honors with 18 points, while also leading the Crusaders with nine rebounds.
Van Wijk Leads the Way: Junior Kevin Van Wijk made his presence felt in the post Monday against #16/16 Arizona. Going up against a big Wildcats front line, the Netherlands native more than held his own, ending the game tied for game-high honors with 18 points. Van Wijk set a new career high with his 18 points, as well as eight free throw makes, and also matched his career best with seven rebounds.
Homer Drew: Fans have a new look on the sidelines this year, as Dr. Homer Drew, who spent 22 seasons as head coach of the Crusaders, retired this past May. Drew closed his 22-year tenure with the Crusaders with 371 career victories and led Valparaiso to nine postseason appearances over his final 16 seasons. He concluded his coaching career, which also included stints at Bethel [Ind.] and IU-South Bend, with 640 career victories over 32 seasons overall, a number which ranked 28th overall among coaches with at least ten years of NCAA Division I coaching experience. The nine postseason appearances include seven trips to the NCAA Tournament, highlighted by the Crusaders' run to the Sweet 16 in 1998, when Valpo defeated Ole Miss and Florida State in a Cinderella journey that captivated the nation.