Valparaiso (6-4, 0-0 MVC)
at Charlotte (4-4, 0-0 Conference USA)
Game No. 11 – Monday, Dec. 16, 2019 – 6 p.m. CT
Halton Arena (9,000) – Charlotte, N.C.
Next Up in Valpo Basketball: After a week of focusing on final exams, it’s back to the hardwood for the Valparaiso University men’s basketball team on Monday evening in Charlotte. This will mark the first of three games on an eight-day road trip that leads into a holiday hiatus. By virtue of its most recent victory, Valpo owns a winning record through 10 games for the 10th consecutive season, sustaining the program’s tradition of strong starts.
Last Time Out: Valpo delivered its most complete performance of the season, downing Central Michigan 77-55 on Sunday afternoon at the Athletics-Recreation Center. Central Michigan entered the game leading the nation in scoring average at 93.9 points per game. A stellar defensive outing saw Valpo limit the Chippewas to 33.9 percent shooting and 5.9 percent from 3-point range. Javon Freeman-Liberty (19) led four Valpo players in double figures, a group that also featured Eron Gordon (14), Nick Robinson (13) and Donovan Clay (10). The team had 24 assists on 31 made baskets.
Following Valpo Basketball: Video – Charlotte 49ers TV -
Radio – WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso) Todd Ickow (play-by-play) and Brandon Vickrey (analyst)
Twitter updates - @ValpoBasketball
Links for the video, audio and live stats will be available at ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach Matt Lottich: Matt Lottich (60-48) is in his seventh season overall at Valpo and fourth as head coach in 2019-20. Lottich led the team to 15 victories in his third season in charge in 2018-19, the program’s second campaign in the Missouri Valley Conference. In his first year as head coach (2016-17), Lottich guided Valpo to its fifth Horizon League regular season championship in a six-year span as he led the team to 24 wins and an at-large berth into the NIT. Lottich, hired as the 22nd head coach of the Valpo men’s basketball program in April 2016, graduated from Stanford University in 2004 and New Trier High School (Illinois) in 2000.
Series Notes: Valpo has won four of the six meetings between the two teams in an all-time series that has been on hold since 2006. The last time the teams faced off was Dec. 22, 2006, a 74-62 victory for the 49ers in Honolulu, Hawaii. Valpo will be back in Charlotte for the first time since Dec. 10, 2005, an 80-77 triumph. The Brown & Gold are 3-0 all-time at Charlotte. The 2006 showdown, part of the 43rd Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic, saw Brandon McPherson post 24 points and Samuel Haanpaa pour in 21 for Valpo.
Lock-Down D: Central Michigan entered its Sunday, Dec. 8 game at the Athletics-Recreation Center as the top scoring offense in the nation at 93.9 points per game. Valpo held the Chippewas to a season-low 55 points, just the second time all season they’ve been held below 75 with the other instance coming at Minnesota. Valpo contained Central Michigan to just 33.9 percent shooting for the game, the team’s second-lowest shooting percentage of the season. The 55 points were the fewest allowed by Valpo all season and the opponent’s field goal percentage of 33.9 was the team’s best since holding Missouri State to 30.9 percent on Jan. 29 of last season.
Guarding the Arc: Valpo limited Central Michigan to just 1-of-17 (5.9 percent) from beyond the 3-point arc in the Dec. 8 victory. Central Michigan had previously made at least four 3s in every game this year, and Valpo had previously allowed at least four 3s in every game this year. That was the first time Valpo held an opponent to just one made 3 in a game since Nov. 19, 2017 vs. Southeastern Louisiana. CMU’s 5.9 percent marked Valpo’s lowest opponent 3-point percentage since Jan. 26, 2015, when Valpo held Milwaukee to 5.9 percent, one made triple in 17 tries.
Home Sweet Home: Valpo upped its home record to 4-0 with the Dec. 8 triumph over Central Michigan. The home success now includes two victories over Mid-American Conference teams that qualified for postseason tournaments a year ago in Toledo and Central Michigan. The team has sustained a long-standing tradition of ARC dominance, as Valpo is off to a 4-0 home start for the fourth time in five years. Valpo is 304-71 (.811) at the ARC over the last 24 years and hasn't had a losing record at home since 1991-1992.
Scouting the 49ers
- Jordan Shepherd is the team’s leading scorer at 14.4 points per game. He’s joined in double figures by Drew Edwards (11.6) and Jahmir Young (10.5). Young is atop the team in rebounding at 5.4 per contest.
- Coming off a 76-57 victory at UNCW on Dec. 7, a game where five 49ers finished in double figures. Like Valpo, Charlotte has had extended time between games due to final exams.
- Resume is highlighted by a 67-65 overtime victory over Wake Forest on Nov. 17, snapping a 13-game skid against ACC opponents. Also won the Hornets’ Nest Trophy by beating crosstown rival Davidson 71-58 on Nov. 12.
- Picked to finish 12th of 14 in the Conference USA Preseason Poll.
- Under the direction of second-year head coach Ron Sanchez, who helped the team limit opponents to 68.9 points per game in his first season, an 11-point improvement from the previous season.
Wrapping Up Central Michigan (Dec. 8)
- Valpo used its best defensive showing of the season to top a quality Central Michigan team 77-55, keeping the nation’s No. 1 scoring offense in check.
- The win came on Homer Drew Day at the ARC as the legendary Valpo coach was recognized with a pregame banner raising to celebrate his recent induction into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. Bryce Drew and numerous other notable alumni were in attendance to celebrate with Homer.
- Javon Freeman-Liberty led the team in scoring for the seventh time in eight games and the seventh straight game against Division-I competition. He finished the day with 19 points. JFL has scored 19 points or more in all nine games against Division-I opponents this season.
- Eron Gordon was perfect from both the field (4-for-4) and the free-throw stripe (4-for-4) en route to a season-high 14 points.
- Nick Robinson had season highs in rebounds (six) and assists (nine) while also turning in 13 points.
- Ben Krikke added nine points and five boards on an efficient 4-of-5 shooting. John Kiser handed out five assists, matching his career best.
- Donovan Clay scored all 10 of his points in the first half, finishing in double figures for the third straight game.
Freeman-Liberty Fast Facts
- Ranks among the nation leaders in scoring average, made field goals, total points and steals.
- Has scored 19 points or more in all nine games Valpo has played against Division-I competition this season.
- Has led Valpo in scoring in seven of the team’s last eight games and seven straight games against D-I competition.
- His scoring average of 22.3 points per game through 10 games is Valpo’s second-best during the first 10 games of a season over the last 30 years, behind Peters’ 25.3 in 2016-17.
- Named the MVC Player of the Week for the second time in a three-week span on Dec. 2. Before this season, no Valpo player had earned MVC Player of the Week honors since the program joined the Missouri Valley Conference.
- Equaled a career-high five steals while pouring in 28 points on Dec. 3 at Eastern Michigan, reaching the 20-point mark for the sixth time in seven games, with the only exception a game against an NAIA opponent where he was limited to 18 minutes and scored 12 points.
- Scored 19 points or more in each of the first seven games of the season and 20 points or more in five straight prior to playing just 18 minutes and scoring 12 points in a lopsided win over Trinity Christian on Nov. 27.
- Joined Alec Peters (12 straight, 2016-17) as the only two Valpo players over the last 30 seasons to start a year with seven straight efforts of 19 points or more.
- Reached the 30-point mark for the second time this season with a career-high 32 on Nov. 25 vs. Cincinnati in the third-place game of the Paradise Jam. At that point in the season, only 45 players nationally had single-game outputs of 32 points or more.
- Became the first player in the Missouri Valley Conference with two 30-point games this season and accounted for two of the conference’s first five 30-point efforts in 2019-20.
- His 32 points against Cincinnati were the most by a Valpo player in a single game since Peters had 35 against Santa Clara on Dec. 22, 2016.
- Had 13 rebounds against SIUE to go along with his 30 points, becoming the second Valpo player in the last 20 seasons with a 30&10 game, joining Alec Peters (six times).
Wrapping Up Eastern Michigan (Dec. 3)
- For the fifth time in the first nine games of the season, Valpo trailed by double figures but battled back to either tie, take the lead or get within two points (at SLU). In this instance, Valpo chased by 10 at halftime and trailed by as many as 12 before grabbing a 66-60 lead with 7:23 to play in an eventual 85-79 loss.
- Eastern Michigan entered the game ranked ninth nationally in scoring defense, and Valpo posted 79 points, the most allowed by the Eagles all season.
- The Eagles entered the night leading the nation in steals per game, but it was Valpo that swiped 10 steals and won the turnover battle 18-14.
- The Valpo sophomore backcourt duo of Javon Freeman-Liberty and Daniel Sackey combined for nine of the team’s 10 steals. Freeman-Liberty equaled a career high with his second five-steal game, his first since Feb. 16 of last season against Drake. Sackey enjoyed his third career four-steal game, equaling a career watermark while setting a season high.
- Redshirt junior Nick Robinson topped the team with seven rebounds, four of which occurred on the offensive glass. Sackey gave out eight assists, matching his career best from this year’s season opener against Toledo.
November Success: Valpo finished the month of November with a 5-3 record, continuing a tradition of strong starts to seasons. November has been Valpo’s best month under head coach Matt Lottich, as the team owns a 24-7 (.774) November Mark through the first four years of his tenure. This marked the 10th straight season Valpo has had a winning record in November, as the team has compiled a 56-19 (.747) November record over the last decade.
Working Overtime: The Paradise Jam third-place game on Nov. 25 marked Valpo’s first overtime affair since an 87-82 setback to Indiana State on Feb. 13 at the ARC last season. Valpo has lost each of its last three overtime games.
Bearcat Bits: Valpo forced 23 turnovers in the Nov. 25 game vs. Cincinnati, but committed 18. The Brown & Gold took care of business at the free-throw line (14-15, 93.3 percent), but struggled to slow the Bearcats from the floor (31-56, 55.4 percent). This was the third time this season a Valpo opponent committed 20 or more turnovers, as Cincinnati (23) joined Toledo (21) and North Dakota (20). The game against the Bearcats marked the most turnovers committed by a Valpo opponent since UNLV’s 25 on Nov. 28, 2018.
Comeback Kids: Although Valpo would love to avoid facing double-figure first-half deficits altogether, the team has showed a knack for erasing large margins this year.
- Valpo faced a 10-point halftime deficit on Dec. 3 at Eastern Michigan and chased by as many as 12 before coming back to take a 66-60 lead with 7:23 to go. The Eagles eventually prevailed 85-79.
- Valpo rallied from 12 down with 10:12 to play to force overtime in an eventual 81-77 defeat to Cincinnati on Nov. 25 in the third-place game of the Paradise Jam.
- On Nov. 12 at SIUE, Valpo was down by 10 with 13:00 minutes to play in the opening half before winning by 13. That marked the first time Valpo had come from down by double figures to win by double figures since Feb. 17, 2018, a 77-64 victory over Bradley.
- Valpo faced a 14-point deficit in the first half at Saint Louis on Nov. 9, but battled to within two by the 5:19 mark of the second half. That was as close as the team would come, however, in an 81-70 defeat.
- The most noteworthy comeback of all came on opening night, when Valpo erased a 14-point deficit to beat Toledo 79-77. It was the team’s largest comeback against a Division-I opponent since Jan. 17, 2013, rallying from 22 down to beat Detroit Mercy 89-88. It was Valpo’s biggest comeback in any game since coming from 16 down to beat Trinity Christian on Nov. 12, 2016.
- In Matt Lottich’s head coaching tenure (fourth season), there have already been 10 times Valpo has trailed by double figures and come away victorious. The team overcame four double-figure deficits in 2016-17 (Wright State, Cleveland State, BYU and Trinity Christian), two in 2017-18 (Bradley and UNCW) and two in 2018-19 (George Washington and Illinois State).
Strong Sackey Showing: Valpo guard Daniel Sackey usurped his career scoring watermark by halftime and finished the Nov. 9 game at Saint Louis with personal bests in points (22), made field goals (7), made 3-pointers (3) and made free throws (5). He became the first Valpo player to go perfect from beyond the arc with more than two attempts since Max Joseph on Jan. 20, 2018 vs. Drake. He and Joseph are the only two players to do so in the last four seasons. The last player to go unblemished from long range with more than three attempts was Alec Peters, who went 4-for-4 on Jan. 18, 2016 at Youngstown State. Sackey also dished out four assists on Saturday at SLU following his eight-helper showing in the Nov. 5 season opener vs. Toledo. This marks the first time in the sophomore’s career that he has handed out four or more assists in back-to-back games.
A Flair for the Dramatic: Valpo added a new name to its long list of late-game heroes in the program’s storied history during the Nov. 5 season opener vs. Toledo as Javon Freeman-Liberty knocked down an off-balance 15-footer from the left elbow with 3.7 seconds left in a 79-77 victory at the Athletics-Recreation Center. That marked the 24th time since the start of the 1992-93 season Valpo has prevailed on a game-winner in the final five seconds. Although it was the first game of the regular season, it was already the second time Valpo has won in dramatic fashion this year as Daniel Sackey’s overtime buzzer-beater lifted the team past Canadian powerhouse Carleton 83-80 in overtime on its foreign tour in August.
Nonconference Highlights: Valpo’s nonconference schedule is highlighted by seven opponents that qualified for the postseason last year. Here are a few of the opponents that highlight the 13-game docket that will lead into the start of Missouri Valley Conference action.
- Toledo (Nov. 5) went 25-8 last season including a 13-5 conference mark. The Rockets went to the NIT a year ago and have won back-to-back MAC West Division titles.
- Saint Louis (Nov. 9) has made four NCAA Tournament appearances in the last decade and went 23-13 in 2018-19 on its way to the Atlantic 10 Tournament title.
- Grand Canyon (Nov. 22) went 20-14 overall and 10-6 in the WAC last season, qualifying for the postseason with a CBI berth. The Lopes have reached the WAC title game and qualified for the postseason in each of their first two years as a Division-I postseason eligible team.
- Nevada (Nov. 24) went 29-5 and 15-3 in the Mountain West last season on the way to an NCAA Tournament appearance.
- Cincinnati (Nov. 25) posted a 28-7 (14-4 American) record last season, qualifying for the NCAA Tournament.
- Central Michigan (Dec. 8) enjoyed a 23-12 overall record and 10-8 MAC mark last season, winning two games in the MAC Tournament and qualifying for the CBI. The 23 victories tied the program’s highest total in 16 years.
- Arkansas (Dec. 21) will close out Valpo’s nonleague schedule in North Little Rock. The Razorbacks, members of the SEC, reached the second round of the NIT last season and finished 18-16 overall.
Wrapping Up Canada
- Valpo finished its four-game Canadian Foreign Tour from Aug. 10-14 with an unblemished mark after notching wins over McGill (84-78), Concordia (94-90), Carleton (83-80, OT) and the University of Quebec (81-68).
- Valpo battled from 90-80 down with 4:56 to play to top Concordia 94-90 in Montreal on Aug. 11 thanks to a game-closing 14-0 run.
- The highlight of the tour came on Aug. 13, when Winnipeg native Daniel Sackey drained a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to top Carleton 83-80 in overtime.
- Valpo stopped Canadian powerhouse Carleton’s 15-game winning streak against NCAA Division-I teams that included triumphs over USF, Ole Miss, Providence, Cincinnati, Vanderbilt and Alabama.
- The Sackey buzzer-beater was No. 9 on SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays that evening.
- Javon Freeman-Liberty scored a team-high 18.8 points per game during the Canada journey, while Donovan Clay and Mileek McMillan shared the team lead by averaging 5.3 boards apiece. Sackey averaged 15.0 points per game during the trip.
- Javon Freeman-Liberty and Ryan Fazekas both earned All-MVC Second Team honors.
- They joined Tevonn Walker (2017) as the only Valpo players to be tabbed preseason all-MVC since joining the conference.
- The last time Valpo had multiple players on the preseason all-league first or second teams in the same season was 2016, when Alec Peters and Shane Hammink were first and second team Horizon League preseason picks, respectively.
- Valpo was picked to finish ninth in the preseason poll, based on a survey of the conference’s head coaches, sports information directors and media. Missouri State was named the preseason favorite.
Wrapping Up 2018-2019
- Valpo moved up two spots in the standings from Year 1 to Year 2 in the Missouri Valley Conference while also earning its first Arch Madness victory by beating Indiana State 77-55 in the opening round of the MVC Tournament.
- Valpo allowed 66.3 points per game, ranking 48th of 351 nationally in scoring defense.
- The team finished with 15 victories for the second straight season including nonconference triumphs over UNLV and George Washington. Valpo started 4-0 in Missouri Valley Conference play, but finished the year 15-18 overall and 7-11 in league action.
New Year, New Look
- Valpo has five returning letter winners after seven letter winners departed following the 2018-19 campaign.
- Valpo has 40.1 percent of its scoring and 35.7 percent of its rebounding back from last season.
- The five returning letter winners are Valpo’s fewest since the 2013-14 campaign, when Jordan Coleman, LaVonte Dority, Bobby Capobianco and Vashil Fernandez were the only players back from the previous season.
- Associate head coach Luke Gore is in his 18th year on staff and has served under four different head coaches. The Valpo veteran has helped the team to seven postseason berths in the last nine years and was on staff for the three winningest seasons in program history. He oversees the team’s post players.
- Assistant coach Rob Holloway is back for his second season after spending the previous two years on staff at Eastern Illinois, his alma mater.
- Assistant coach Matt Bowen returned to Valpo’s staff in 2018-19 after previously spending four seasons with the Brown & Gold from 2002-2006. He was the head coach at the University of Minnesota Duluth from 2012-2018.
- Director of Basketball Operations Jason Karys is in his first season in that capacity, but has been around the program in a variety of roles, spending two years as a graduate assistant, one as a walk-on player and three as a manager.
- Strength & Conditioning Coach Derek Bol is in his eighth season. He is a 2010 graduate of Iowa State.
- Graduate Assistant Peter Funk has taken that role after four years as an undergraduate manager.
- Athletic trainer Ken DeAngelis is in his first season full-time at Valpo after previously earning his master’s degree from the University in 2012 while spending two years as a graduate assistant athletic trainer.
Tradition of Excellence
- Valpo has 14 NCAA Tournament appearances and four NIT berths in the program’s proud history, with the team’s postseason success highlighted by a Sweet Sixteen run in 1998.
- The program has produced nine All-Americans, won 18 regular season conference championships and 10 conference tournament crowns.
- Valpo also boasts eight NBA players, 10 conference players of the year and 20 20-win seasons.
- Nine of the team’s NCAA appearances have come since 1996.
- Valpo has qualified for the postseason seven times in the last nine years, but enters 2019-20 seeking its first postseason tournament berth since playing in the NIT to conclude the 2016-17 season.
- Valpo has developed a myriad of professional basketball players over the last quarter century, most notably a pair of NBA players in the last three years.
- Ryan Broekhoff (class of 2013) signed a contract with the Dallas Mavericks in the summer of 2018 after spending five seasons playing internationally in Russia and Turkey.
- Broekhoff tallied a season-high 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the floor (3-5 3PT) in 22 minutes of action Jan. 5 in a 106-100 loss against Philadelphia. Broekhoff played in 42 games during the 2018-19 season.
- Alec Peters (class of 2017) was the 54th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft by the Phoenix Suns.
- Peters appeared in 20 games for the Suns in 2017-18, highlighted by a 36-point performance in the season finale against Dallas - a new single-game high by a Valpo alum in the NBA.
- Peters won a championship with CSKA Moscow in Russia in 2018-19. He signed a one-year contract with Anadolu Efes in Turkish BSL on July 9, 2019.
- 2018 Valpo graduate Tevonn Walker plays for Hamburg in German BBL. Walker’s classmate Max Joseph signed a contract with Nassjo Basket in Sweden following his time at Valpo.
- 2017 product Jubril Adekoya plays for Carramimbre CBC Valladolid in Spanish LEB Gold.
- Cory Johnson (2011) signed with Penarol in Argentina.
- Keith Carter, who rounded out his Valpo career in 2016, played in the 2019 NBA Summer League with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
- Valpo has now produced 50 pro basketball players over the last 25 years.
#0 Javon Freeman-Liberty, So. (Chicago, Ill.)
- Poured in a team-high 28 points while equaling a career high with five steals on Dec. 3 at Eastern Michigan.
- Was named the MVC Player of the Week for the second time in a three-week span on Dec. 2.
- Started the season with seven straight games of 19 points or more, joining Alec Peters (2016-17) as the only Valpo players to accomplish that feat in that last 30 years. Saw that streak snapped when he scored 12 points in just 18 minutes on Nov. 27 vs. NAIA Trinity Christian.
- Averaged 25.0 points and 5.7 rebounds per game during three contests at the Paradise Jam event (Nov. 22-25), earning all-tournament team honors. His success came against three quality teams in Grand Canyon, Nevada and Cincinnati, including a career-high 32 points in an overtime defeat to the Bearcats on Nov. 25.
- Stuffed the stat sheet with 21 points, nine rebounds, four steals and a career-high five assists on Nov. 17 vs. North Dakota.
- Had a career-high 30 points while also pulling down 13 rebounds in a Nov. 12 win at SIUE. He became the second Valpo player in the last 20 seasons with a 30&10 game, joining Alec Peters (six times).
- Scored 14 points in a span of 4 minutes, 23 seconds on Nov. 9 at SLU and finished the game with 19, marking the first sequence of back-to-back games with 19 points or more in his career.
- Started the year with a 19-point, five-rebound effort in a 79-77 victory over Toledo on Nov. 5. That culminated with an off-balance 15 footer with 3.7 seconds left that gave Valpo the lead and the win.
- Member of the 2018-19 MVC All-Freshman Team, 2018-19 MVC All-Defensive Team and 2019-20 MVC Preseason Second Team.
- Finished the 2018-19 season with 60 steals, the third most in single-season program history behind only Lubos Barton in 2001-02 and Scott Anselm in 1988-89.
- Accumulated 364 points in 2018-19, surpassing Bryce Drew’s freshman campaign for the fourth-most by a freshman in program history.
- Pulled down 142 rebounds in 2018-19, the fifth-most by a freshman in the history of the program.
- Joined Lubos Barton as one of just two rookies in program history with top five freshman marks in scoring, rebounding and steals.
- Became the first Valpo freshman to lead a conference in one of the five major statistical categories and the first Valpo player since at least 1982 to pace a conference in steals.
#1 Sigurd Lorange, Fr. (Trondheim, Norway)
- Set career highs in points (11) and assists (four) while knocking down four of his six shots and canning three 3s on Nov. 27 vs. Trinity Christian.
- Made his collegiate debut on Nov. 9 at Saint Louis, then scored his first collegiate basket on Nov. 12 at SIUE, a 3-pointer at the buzzer to end the first half.
- Before coming to Valpo, played for Gimle Basketball in the BLNO, Norway’s top professional basketball league.
- Helped lead Gimle to a league runner-up finish, averaging nearly 20 points and better than four assists.
- Averaged 17.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game for Norway at the U18s in 2018.
#2 Zion Morgan, R-Jr. (Chicago, Ill.)
- Pulled down a season-high four rebounds in just 10 minutes in a Dec. 8 victory over Central Michigan.
- Had season highs in points (seven), assists (five) and steals (four) on Nov. 27 vs. Trinity Christian.
- Previously played at UNLV (2016-17) and Wabash Valley College (2017-18 & 2018-19), leading the Warriors to a 25-8 record last season.
- Was teammates with Valpo’s Nick Robinson at Kenwood Academy in Chicago.
- Uncle Mardy Gilyard was a wide receiver at Cincinnati and was drafted by the St. Louis Rams in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL Draft.
#3 Brock Pappas, So. (Valparaiso, Ind.)
- Grabbed his first career rebound in a Dec. 8 win over Central Michigan.
- Made his collegiate debut on Nov. 27 vs. Trinity Christian, playing the final four minutes of a win over the Trolls.
- Nursing major who joined the program as a walk-on in 2018-19.
- Is a Valparaiso, Ind. native and a graduate of nearby Washington Township.
- Mother (Lisa) has worked on Valpo’s campus for 32 years, currently serving as an administrative assistant in the Department of Education. Brother (Bryce) and father (Steve) are both Valpo graduates, and his brother was named after Bryce Drew.
#4 Daniel Sackey, So. (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada)
- Tied career highs in assists (8) and steals (4) on Dec. 3 at Eastern Michigan.
- Had his second straight six-rebound effort on Nov. 25 vs. Nevada, equaling a personal best.
- Made four critical free throws down the stretch and pulled down a significant rebound to put Valpo over the top in a 78-74 victory over Grand Canyon on Nov. 22 in the Paradise Jam opener. He finished the game with 12 points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals including a 6-of-7 showing at the foul line. The six boards marked a career watermark.
- Led the team in assists for the fourth straight game on Nov. 17 vs. North Dakota, enjoying his third game with six assists or more.
- Dished out a career-high eight assists in the regular-season opener on Nov. 5 vs. Toledo.
- Had usurped his career scoring watermark by halftime and finished the Nov. 9 game at Saint Louis with personal bests in points (22), made field goals (7), made 3-pointers (3) and made free throws (5), becoming the first player to go perfect from beyond the arc with three or more attempts since Max Joseph on Jan. 20, 2018, the only other player to do so in the last four seasons.
- Made a buzzer-beater to upstage Canadian powerhouse Carleton in overtime in August, making an appearance on SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays at No. 9 that evening.
- Has been a drummer since elementary school. The basement of his family’s home in Canada includes a small recording studio. He has a deep passion for music.
- Became just the sixth Manitoban to earn a scholarship in Division-I men’s basketball since the NCAA reorganized into its current competitive format in 1973.
#5 Donovan Clay, Fr. (Alton, Ill.)
- Had his third straight double-figure scouting output with 10 points, all in the first half, on Dec. 8 vs. Central Michigan.
- Had his second straight double-figure output by adding 11 points on Dec. 3 at Eastern Michigan.
- Filled the stat sheet with career highs in points (16), rebounds (8) and assists (4) on Nov. 27 vs. Trinity Christian.
- Had the first double-figure scoring output of his collegiate career in a win over Grand Canyon, also matching a season best with his second-straight four-rebound game.
- Made his first home start and had career highs in assists and rebounds with four of each on Nov. 17 vs. North Dakota.
- Made his first career start in a game near his hometown of Alton, Ill. on Nov. 12 at SIUE, scoring five points and grabbing three boards.
- Knocked down a 3-pointer and collected three rebounds on Nov. 9 at Saint Louis, a game played near his hometown of Alton, Ill.
- Made his collegiate debut and scored his first collegiate basket on Nov. 5 vs. Toledo
- After senior year of high school: 4A First Team All-State, member of All-Metro First Team, honorable mention Associate Press All-State, Riverbend Boys Basketball Player of the Year, the Telegraph Large Schools Boys Basketball Player of the Year, named the “biggest sleeper” in the state of Illinois by the Chicago Sun-Times.
- Had a late growth spurt in high school, going from 6-foot-3 as a junior to 6-7 as a senior.
- Father Dexter, who is his role model, played college basketball at Rend Lake Junior College.
#10 Eron Gordon, R-Jr. (Indianapolis, Ind.)
- Had a season-high 14 points while going perfect from both the floor (4-for-4) and the foul line (4-for-4) while playing 20 quality minutes off the bench in a Dec. 8 victory over Central Michigan.
- Reached double figures for the first time in his Valpo career on Nov. 27 vs. Trinity Christian, scoring 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting while draining a pair of 3s.
- Knocked down all three of his shot attempts and totaled nine points and three steals on Nov. 25 in an overtime loss vs. Cincinnati.
- Made his Valpo debut on Nov. 5 vs. Toledo, seeing six minutes of action.
- Joined the program in 2018-19 but sat out due to transfer rules. Appeared in 48 games over his two years at Seton Hall.
- Oldest brother Eric was the seventh pick of the 2008 NBA Draft and has played 11 seasons in the NBA. Father Eric is one of the Top 20 all-time scorers at Liberty. Brother Evan is playing in the CBA after scoring over 1,300 points at the Division-I level at Liberty, Arizona State and Indiana.
- Adds to Valpo’s recent history of NBA connections after Derrik Smits, Shane Hammink and Chandler Levingston Simon all had fathers who played in the NBA. Javon Freeman-Liberty’s uncle played in the NBA, while Valpo women’s basketball player Ella Ellenson is the brother of Henry.
#11 Emil Freese-Vilien, Fr. (Copenhagen, Denmark)
- Had a season-best five points on Nov. 27 vs. Trinity Christian.
- Made his collegiate debut on his birthday in the Nov. 5 game vs. Toledo by contributing four points, three rebounds and two assists.
- Started playing basketball in November 2014 after playing badminton during his younger years.
- Played for Denmark at both the U16 and U18 FIBA Euro Championships in 2015 and 2017, respectively.
- Shortly before coming to Valpo, played for Vaerlose in the Danish Basketligaen, the highest professional league in Denmark.
#15 Luke Morrill, Fr. (Lombard, Ill.)
- Made his collegiate debut by playing the final four minutes of a Nov. 27 victory over Trinity Christian, scoring four points and pulling down two rebounds.
- Joined the program as a walk-on for the 2019-20 season.
- Graduate of Montini Catholic – also the alma mater of a pair of Valpo women’s basketball players, Ilysse Pitts and Zoe MacKay Zacker.
- Played his prep basketball under the late Daryl Thomas.
#22 Mileek McMillan, Jr. (Merrillville, Ind.)
- Set a career high for the second straight game with 16 points vs. North Dakota on Nov. 17, his third double-figure output of the season and the fourth of his career.
- Posted a career-high 13 points on Nov. 12 at SIUE.
- Saw action in 30 games as a sophomore after appearing in all 32 games as a freshman.
- Local to Northwest Indiana after playing his prep basketball for nearby Merrillville High School.
- Helped his Merrillville Pirates finish with a 22-2 record his junior year of high school.
#23 Ben Krikke, Fr. (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada)
- Scored a team-high 18 points to establish a career watermark in the Nov. 27 win over Trinity Christian. Also had four boards and four assists while snatching two steals against the Trolls.
- Didn’t make a field goal over the first three games of his career, but he knocked down five on 11 attempts against North Dakota on Nov. 17. He finished with 11 points, one of four Valpo players in double figures.
- Made his collegiate debut in the Nov. 5 season opener vs. Toledo.
- Competed for Team Canada at the 2018 FIBA U17 World Cup in Argentina, averaging 9.9 points per game and 4.4 rebounds per game while helping Canada to a fourth-place finish.
- Credits his father’s Michael Jordan DVD set for helping him hone his skills. DVDs included Jordan’s greatest games, plays and Top 10 dunks.
- Was the MVP of the Alberta Basketball All-Star Showcase, scoring 37 points.
#25 Nick Robinson, R-Jr. (Chicago, Ill)
- Boasted season highs in rebounds (nine) and assists (six) while scoring 13 points to help Valpo top Central Michigan on Dec. 8.
- Topped the team with seven rebounds, four of which occured on the offensive glass, on Dec. 3 at Eastern Michigan.
- Had a personal-best 19 points to go along with eight rebounds and went 8-for-8 at the free-throw line on Nov. 12 at SIUE.
- Had nine points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals in his Valpo debut, a victory over Toledo in the Nov. 5 season opener.
- Joined the program as a transfer in 2018-19 and sat out due to transfer rules after playing two seasons at Saint Joseph’s and appearing in 62 games, starting 30 times.
- High school teammate of Valpo’s Zion Morgan at Kenwood.
- Enjoys taking photos of nature in his spare time.
#33 John Kiser, Sr. (Noblesville, Ind.)
- Matched a career high with nine points on Nov. 24 vs. Nevada, his fourth career nine-point effort and third this season.
- Equaled a career high with nine points for the second time this season on Nov. 17 vs. North Dakota. He has three nine-point efforts in his Valpo career.
- Had eight points, seven rebounds and a career-high five assists on Nov. 12 in a win at SIUE. That marked his third straight game with seven or more rebounds.
- Was a non-scholarship walk-on in 2016-17 as a freshman, but earned a scholarship following that season.
- Is the program’s longest-tenured player as the only member of the 2016-17 team still active at Valpo.
- The mechanical engineering major earned 2017-18 MVC Scholar-Athlete honorable mention.
#35 Ryan Fazekas, R-Sr. (Chesterton, Ind.)
- Was injured on Nov. 9 at Saint Louis and is out indefinitely.
- Started the season by leading the team with a career-high 23 points on Nov. 5 vs. Toledo.
- Graduated from nearby Marquette Catholic High School (Michigan City, Ind.) before beginning his collegiate career with two seasons at Providence.
- Sat out the 2017-18 season at Valpo and is now in his second season playing for the team. Member of this year’s Second Team Preseason All-MVC squad.
- Enters the season ranked second among active Valley players in career 3-point field goal percentage (minimum 30 attempts) at .432, behind only Loyola’s Cooper Kaifes.