Open competition brings intensity to veteran bball squad

Phat Nguyen, Sports Editor

The Colonel basketball team returns all five starters from last year’s team that went 15-10 advancing to the Freedom Conference semifinals including last’s years leading scorer, Chris DeRojas, who is now an assistant coach.
The point guard position formerly held by DeRojas is now what Coach Rickrode calls an open competition, but early front runners include but are not limited to freshman Jordan Wilson, Craig Thomas and Tyler Breznitsky.
“Point guard situation is pretty strong,” Rickrode said.  “I think there will be one to emerge, but we haven’t solidified one yet.”
Senior Captain Kendall Hinze enjoys the open competition and notes how it’s only going to make everyone better.
“We have so many guys competing for that one spot, and they all bring something different to the table,” Hinze, the P-2 pharmacy student, said.
As far as starters go, Rickrode believes there are 14 guys competing for the five starting spots of out his 22 man roster.
Rickrode has enthusiastically stated how great this open competition has been especially at practice. “In my twenty years coaching, this is as good as they’ve been as competitively and defensively as they been in a long time.”
Rickrode said there’s a good situation for freshmen since they don’t have to make a huge impact as a group immediately. Jordan Wilson will make an impact as a freshman as well as Rodney Hill.
Senior co-captain Paul Huch has already seen good things out of the freshman point guard.
“He’s got a ton of talent,” Huch, the senior psychology major, said. “You could definitely see that at practice. College level is just so much faster pace. It’s all about slowing things down and making good decisions, and I think he’s been doing a good job so far.”
Rickrode believes that they have quite a bit to do before the start of the season.
“We’re trying to concentrate on the tempo being a lot faster up the floor. We think we will be able to pressure a lot better. We’re also a little deeper, and we look to play more people this year.”
That increased tempo is another adjustment the team improve on both sides of the ball. The team looks to run more full court presses and fast break points with their deep roster. Huch believes a lot of guys will get playing time with this new attitude.
“As soon as we get tired, we can bring them out and put another guy comes in,” Huch said. “We want some more easy points instead of playing half court basketball all game.”
Rickrode says first goal is to try to get off to a good start this year.
“I just want to get off to the better start than last year,” he said. “It’s a little bit of a different dynamic because we have more of a veteran leadership. The schedule has some tough games as it should, but we want to get off to a better start.”
“We didn’t start playing well until the second semester last year,” Huch said. “We’re just trying to build off of that, and hopefully keep that going this entire year instead of going so late.”
Huch and Hinze are trying to start the year off on the right foot by bringing more intensity to practice, stepping up as vocal leaders at practice in order to get to the next level.
Rickrode believes intensity at practice has been there now the teams just needs to execute.
“I think we just try to establish that every day at practice right now,” Rickrode said. “I think that we’ve had really good ones so far. They’re continuing to get better every day.”
The bar for the Colonels is set high with the eventual hope to win a MAC championship.
“I’ve been thinking about that for years now,” Hinze said. “Whenever I was even running in the off-season, it’s the only thing I’ve been thinking about. I sit there in class sometimes and don’t pay attention and just think of the game.”
“I want to leave a mark in that gym. The best way to do that would be to leave a banner in that gym,” Hinze said.
Wilkes will open the 2011-12 season at home against Penn State Hazleton Tuesday, Nov. 15 in the Marts Center at 7 p.m.