News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Rose-Hulman

November 16, 2010

ROSE HOOPS PREVIEW: Only one senior — again — but plenty of depth for men’s team

TERRE HAUTE — It’s a case of deja vu all over again for the Rose-Hulman men’s basketball team. For the second year in a row, the Engineers sport just one senior on their roster.

Rose’s only senior last season, guard Jeff McCartney, has graduated.

Last year’s only junior, guard Steve Ricks, assumes this season’s role of “The Lone Senior.”

The Engineers struggled to a 7-18 mark last season, only 3-13 in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference.

That marked the sixth consecutive losing season for the men’s program.

Youth, and a lot of it, was a big factor in last year’s outcome. To wit, the top six scorers for the Engineers were three sophomores and three freshmen.

All six of those players have returned. Coupled with an infusion of quality freshmen again this season, Rose-Hulman is cautiously optimistic of a successful 2010-11 season.

“We’re still very young … although now we’re young and a little experienced,” Rose coach Jim Shaw explained.

“Whereas [last year], we were young and inexperienced.

“We’ve only got one senior. We’ve got several juniors that have played a lot. Some sophomores who have a year playing pretty much full-time. I think we’ve got a core of new kids that can help us immediately.”

In their second annual exhibition game played earlier this month vs. Indiana State, Shaw started sophomore Austin Weatherford (6-1) and junior Blake Knotts (5-10) at guards, with sophomore Nate Gissentanner (6-4), junior Spencer Harlan (6-6) and junior Jason Haslag (6-6) up front.

All are veterans of Rose basketball at tender ages.

Knotts and Haslag paced the Engineers in scoring last year with identical 9.0 scoring averages. Weatherford (8.4), Gissentanner (7.2) and Harlan (6.7) closely followed.

“Our three juniors that have played quite a bit in the past are in a way looking to rebound from down years last year,” Shaw said of Haslag, Knotts and Harlan. “I think they’ve been better at practice. I think they have a bit of a different role. I think they’re going to thrive.”

“But I think our sophomores are a lot better,” Shaw alluded to Weatherford and Gissentanner. “They’ve put on a lot of strength.”

Shaw hopes to employ a four-headed monster up front this season, utilizing a quartet of post players in Haslag, Harlan, Jon Gerken (6-6 sophomore) and Brenton Balsbaugh (6-6 sophomore). Those four combined to pull down over 14 rebounds a game last season.

“I consider Jon Gerken a starter,” Shaw noted. “He may be our best inside player even though he came off the bench against Indiana State. I think he led us in minutes. We’ve got four post players that will rotate fairly equally who can really do things.”

Competition for playing time is keen at the guard position as well.

“There’s heavy competition for the backup point guard spot when [Weatherford] is not on the floor,” Shaw said.

Shaw sings the praises of freshmen Julian Strickland (6-3), James Pillischafske (6-2), Jordy Martin (5-11) along with Ricks (6-1) to back up at the point. Potentially in that mix is a football player, sophomore Terrae Hall, “who started quite a bit two years ago.”

Asked how he feels his season will play out, Shaw kiddingly predicted, “Twenty-five wins.”

“I just think we’re better,” Shaw stated. “How it translates to wins and losses, you never know. A lot of things can happen. But I know that we’re better than we were last year. I think we’re better shooters. I think we’re better inside. I definitely think we’re better defensively.”

Rose opens its season with three road games in the span of five days, beginning with games Friday (vs. Wilmington College) and Saturday (vs. Washington & Jeff or Case Western) in the Case Western Reserve University Tournament.

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