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Five things about the local college basketball scene
February 1, 2011 - Zach Baker
It's been a while since I've done one of these things. But it's the middle of basketball season, and it seems a good time to assess some things.
1. As I write this, Heidelberg's men sit at 8-4 in the Ohio Athletic Conference. Earlier this week, Duane Sheldon and Baldwin-Wallace came to Tiffin, and Heidelberg dismantled it with a fast offense and plenty of pressure. Heidelberg has four players that have really stood out to me this season: Dane Givner is one of the most talented guards I've seen at HU, perhaps the most talented I've seen. Nate Davis has the potential to get a double-double every game. These guys have matured as sophomores, but they still can get better. At least, that how it looks to me.
The other two guys who stand out are Darion Capers and Victor Fortkamp. Capers has the potential to be a top scorer in the conference. Fortkamp reminds me a little of Andrew Lemmon, with size and an outside shot. He's a little thinner than Lemmon, but Fortkamp is just a freshmas and even as a freshman, has shown the ability to score in double digits.
The one thing the men lack is a solid senior presence with experience. Kyle Tuley is emerging as a leader on the court, but he is the only senior who starts. Derrick Flynn and Andy Emrhein also are seniors, but they aren't on the court as much, though Flynn has been valuable off the bench and Emrhein has been injured for much of this year. Remember, when the Student Princes won the OAC tourney in 2008, they had five seniors. The 2011 squad might be as talented, but is is younger, and that makes a huge difference. But the 2011 squad is fun to watch. Coach Anthony Gholson deserves credit for being able to recruit young players who have made an immediate impact. The team has grown up quickly, but as good as it looks now, the future is really exciting.
2. Over at Tiffin University, Pam Oswald's women's team has hit a rough patch. Three straight losses, three straight games of shooting less than 40 percent. TU is 6-7 in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, and what looked like a certainty a few weeks ago, making the conference tournament, looks like something less than that now. To me, it all comes down to Saturday's game vs. Ashland at the Gillmor Center. Tiffin was crushed by the Eagles a few weeks ago, and another performance like that could put the Dragons in a tough spot. Mandy Jaeb, doubtless the Dragons' best player, has struggled in recent games.
The Dragons can turn things around, but the defense will have to be better, and the shooting has to be better as well. It's nothing Oswald hasn't said. It actually starts tonight in a non-conference game with Central State. Under Oswald, TU has been getting better every year. I expect that trend to continue beyond this year. But making the eight-team conference tournament, getting a decent seed and a winnable first round game, would be a big step for this program.
3. Could the Tiffin men make the conference tournament? It's not impossible if they get a couple more wins. After one league win last year, they have four now. Joe Graessle and Karl Finley have been on fire in the last week. Tiffin hosts Ashland Saturday. It should have beaten the Eagles a few weeks ago, and a win this week would strengthen the Dragons' postseason chances, but also send a message to the rest of the league, that TU has learned how to finish. That's a big thing.
4. Clyde graduate Jenny Miller. now a senior at Heidelberg, reached 1,000 points in her collegiate career Saturday. In what has been a tough year for the HU women, Miller's play has been a bright spot. She averaging almost 14 points and better than nine rebounds a game.
Miller arrived at Heidelberg in 2007, and she has been one of the team's best players since she set foot on the court at Seiberling as a freshman. It was nice to see her reach the milestone, and do it in front of the home crowd.
Despite Heidelberg's struggles (it has one win overall and is winless in the conference), there are some bright spots. Aside from Miller, freshman Kathleen Phillips looks like a find, averaging better than 11 points a game. I also was impressed with the play of the bench in the final minutes of the loss to Muskingum. Heidelberg played John Carroll tough on the first time the teams met two weeks ago. That's who is scheduled (weather pending) to come to HU Wednesday.
5. Tiffin University men's player Brian Scott is closing in on 1,000 points for his career. That's a good number for anybody, but it's especially impressive for Scott. He and Rafael Cuellar are the only two players remaining from the Rodney Martin era, which shows how much turnover there has been in the program since John Hill took over before last season. But Scott and Cuellar have been in Tiffin four seasons, and both are important players on an improving Dragons team.
Scott scored 20 points Saturday against Lake Superior State, and has evolved into a dangerous player off the bench. The 5-foot-6 guard always has had a beautiful shot, and from the beginning of this season, Hill has praised his hard work.
Cuellar has had some big rebounding games this season, and Tiffin is leading the league in offensive boards. He's been a big part of that.
It's been a long road for Scott and Cuellar, but the two are playing a big part in TU's improvement.