A Look Back at Last Year
The 2013-14 campaign was highlighted by the Crusaders’ fourth consecutive appearance in a postseason tournament. Valpo posted an 18-16 overall record – its fourth straight winning season – and went 9-7 in Horizon League play to finish in fourth place, its fifth straight campaign above .500 in league action.
Lavonte Dority was named a First Team All-Horizon League honoree and received Second Team All-District accolades, while Alec Peters and Lexus Williams both were named to the Horizon League All-Freshman Team. The season would come to an abrupt end, however, as Columbia’s Maodo Lo hit a buzzer-beating jumper from the top of the key to give the Lions a 58-56 victory to down the Crusaders in the first round of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament.
On the Bench
One of the brightest young head coaches in Division I, Bryce Drew returns for his fourth season at the helm of the Crusader program. Through his first three years, Drew has guided Valpo to a 66-36 overall record, including a 36-14 mark in Horizon League play.
The 2012-13 Horizon League Coach of the Year as a rookie, the Crusaders have earned postseason berths in each of his first three seasons, have twice captured Horizon League regular season titles and were the Horizon League tournament champions in 2013-14.
Drew’s trio of assistant coaches remains intact from last year, as Roger Powell Jr. (fourth season), Luke Gore (13th season) and Matt Lottich (second season) return in 2014-15.
End of the Road
The end of the 2013-14 marked the end of the Crusader careers of four seniors, highlighted by the loss of First Team All-League honoree Lavonte Dority (15.7 ppg, 42.7% 3PT). Moussa Gueye graduated as well after setting a new Crusader single-season record with 71 blocked shots.
Also departing following last season were seniors Jordan Coleman (8.1 ppg, 3.5 rpg) and Bobby Capobianco (6.3 ppg, 3.8 rpg). In addition, freshman Clay Yeo (4.1 ppg) transferred to Bethel College following his rookie campaign.
Guess Who’s Back
Valparaiso returns 48.3% of its scoring and 56.8% of its rebounding from the 2013-14 squad and has three full-time starters back for their second year as Crusaders. Unfortunately for Valpo, one of those starters is not expected to suit up this year, as guard Lexus Williams (6.5 ppg, 2.4 apg, team-high 35 steals) suffered a knee injury in the offseason.
Leading the returnees is sophomore forward Alec Peters (12.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg). Peters was an All-Freshman Team selection last season and was the lone underclassman named to the Horizon League preseason First Team All-League. Fellow sophomore Jubril Adekoya (5.8 ppg, 53.7% FG) also is back from last season’s starting lineup.
Senior Vashil Fernandez is back in the post in 2014-15 as well after splitting time at center last season with Gueye. Fernandez tallied 58 blocked shots last season, fourth-most in a single season in Crusader history, and enters his final season among Valpo’s all-time top-ten in career rejections. Also returning for the 2014-15 campaign are junior guard Keith Carter (5.7 ppg, 2.3 apg), senior forward David Chadwick and sophomore guard Nick Davidson.
The New Faces
Valpo welcomes seven newcomers to the fold this season, five of whom are eligible at this point to take the court for the Crusaders in 2014-15. E. Victor Nickerson, a 6-8 transfer from Charlotte who averaged 5.8 ppg as a sophomore for the 49ers, is eligible this year after sitting out last season, while guard Darien Walker is a junior college transfer from John A. Logan College, where he averaged 13.4 ppg last year and was a First Team All-Region 24 choice.
A pair of prep backcourt mates from Montreal join the Crusaders as freshmen this year in Tevonn Walker and Max Joseph. The duo helped lead Vanier to league and provincial titles last year and a fourth-place finish nationally. Walker was an All-Canadian selection, ranked among the top-10 in his class nationally and was named league Player of the Year. Joseph was ranked 22nd in his class, was a Second Team All-League performer and was a First Team All-Star at the national tournament.
David Skara rounds out the trio of freshmen on this year’s team. The 6-8 native of Croatia spent last year at prep school in the United States and was a member of the Croatia team which captured the bronze medal at the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship.
At least six nationally-broadcast appearances highlight the Crusaders’ 2014-15 schedule.
The 15-game home slate opens Thursday evening with the exhibition contest against Grand Valley State, and the regular season then opens at home on Friday night, Nov. 14 versus East Tennessee State. Prior to the game against ETSU, there will be a tribute to Gene Bartow, former Valparaiso head coach and father of current ETSU head coach Murry Bartow.
The highlight of the non-league slate comes on Saturday, Dec. 6, when the Crusaders welcome New Mexico to the ARC for an ESPN3 broadcast. Perennially among the top-25 teams in the nation, the Lobos have won 84 games over the last three seasons and own four Mountain West regular season titles over the last six years. One week later, in-state rival Ball State comes to town.
The road schedule opens up Sunday, Nov. 16 on the SEC Network as the Crusaders take on Missouri, 23-game winners out of the SEC a season ago. Two tournaments are on the docket for Valpo this year, including the Challenge in Music City Nov. 28-30, where the Crusaders will face Drake, Murray State and Portland.
Horizon League play opens for the Crusaders on Friday, Jan. 2 at Oakland, with the home opener coming two days later against Youngstown State. The double round-robin slate totals 16 games, with four of Valpo’s games slated for broadcast on the ESPN family of networks. The Crusaders’ home game against Cleveland State on Saturday, Jan. 10 will be an ESPN3 broadcast, while the game at Green Bay on Friday, Jan. 23 will either be on ESPNU or ESPN3. The home game against the Phoenix on Friday, Feb. 13 can be seen either on ESPN2 or ESPNU. The regular season finale – at Cleveland State on Friday, Feb. 27 – will be broadcast live on ESPNU at 9 p.m. CT.