TERRE HAUTE —
Armed with one of the top NCAA Division III players in the nation in senior Julian Strickland, the Rose-Hulman men’s basketball team will begin its 20th straight season under the guidance of coach Jim Shaw tonight at Washington (St. Louis) University.
Tipoff for the Lopata Classic first-round matchup is slated for 9 o’clock EST.
“They’re one of the top [Division III] teams in the country,” Shaw said of the Bears’ program commonly known as Wash. U. “They’re really good every year and they’ll be really good this year.”
Benefiting Shaw and the Engineers will be the presence of Strickland, a 6-foot-3, 195-pound guard from Indianapolis and the reigning Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Most Valuable Player. In 2012-13, Strickland averaged 14.6 points and 4.4 rebounds per game while shooting 82.3 percent from the free-throw line and 42.3 percent from 3-point range.
With several talented players lost to graduation from last season’s Rose squad — which finished 24-4 overall and 16-2 in the HCAC (good for first place) and qualified for the Division III tournament for the second straight year — his scoring role is likely to increase this season.
“We have a lot of wings, a lot of 2s and 3s, who I think can really play quality basketball, starting obviously with Julian Strickland,” Shaw told the Tribune-Star. “We also have [6-2 senior and returning starter] James Pillischafske, who in the last few years has been one of the best shooters in the league.”
Shaw said Thursday that Pillischafske recently suffered a knee injury and his playing status is considered “day-to-day.”
“Then there’s a bunch of other guys who I think can play and their roles and playing time will be developed over time, depending on how they evolve, how they play and how they mesh together,” the Engineers’ coach continued. “That includes [6-4 senior] Jake Dodd, [6-1 junior] Corey Povaleri, [6-5 sophomore] Tyler Duffy and [6-3 senior] Brian McHugh. Plus, a freshman, [6-4] Collin Wojcik, has really done a good job in practice. … He could give us some scoring punch down the road.”
Shaw plans to eventually use 6-5 senior Alec Houpt in the post this season, but Houpt is still busy playing back-up goalkeeper for the Rose-Hulman men’s soccer team that’s playing in the NCAA Division III Round of 16 this weekend at Mechanicsburg, Pa.
Also manning the front line are Michael Hallstein, a 6-6 sophomore, and Jimmy Miller, a 6-5 sophomore. Both started in the Nov. 3 exhibition contest against Indiana State in Hulman Center.
“Houpt is more of a post player, whereas Mike and Jimmy are more mobile 4-men … probably better shooters on the perimeter,” Shaw noted.
He also praised 6-9 sophomore Matt Loesing for his development. “He could really help us on the interior,” the veteran coach noted.
Turning to point guard, Shaw mentioned 5-11 Jordy Martin as “a senior with a lot of experience who does a lot of unsung things for us.”
Martin started only one game last season, but he played in 28.
“One of the pleasant developments of the Indiana State game was how [5-5 freshman] Wade Stallings played,” Shaw added about the point-guard position. “He’s not very big, but he showed that he can play. He showed in that limited game offering that he can really do some things on both ends of the floor. So we’re real excited about Wade’s development.”
Shaw hesitated to name a starting lineup, although he said Thursday that Dodd will fill in for Pillischafske tonight.
“It’s hard to speculate on Alec,” Shaw explained. “He still hasn’t practiced one second with us. … Matt Loesing could figure in, depending on the size of our opponent, matchups and that kind of thing.”
Asked to assess his team as a whole after its exhibition loss to ISU, Shaw replied: “I definitely saw some good things. It’s hard to separate the things that we did poorly with the reason we might have done things poorly, which might have been Indiana State. But we definitely went a ways toward answering some of our personnel questions. We got some positive early answers on that. We did some very good things, I thought, at times.”
When the Engineers begin HCAC play Dec. 4 at Anderson, they won’t see any opponents as tough as the NCAA Division I Sycamores. But Shaw expects to be seriously challenged, even though Rose was the coaches’ preseason pick to win the conference championship. In ’12-13, the Engineers captured the HCAC’s regular-season and tournament titles.
“I think the conference is really balanced,” he said. “We won the preseason poll, if you want to call it winning it, based on being the dominant team last year and having the conference Most Valuable Player [Strickland] returning. I think that probably got us over the hump.
“I think Hanover should be really good, then there’s several teams which either didn’t lose much personnel or maybe lost just one key guy. A lot of their success will depend on how other guys evolve without that one key guy. There are probably four or five teams that could win it.”
Considering the Engineers finished 20-9 in 2011-12 and 24-4 in 2012-13 and earned Division III tournament bids both seasons, Shaw admitted that duplicating that kind of success will not be easy.
“It will be difficult because we were awfully successful,” he emphasized. “The season we had last year doesn’t often duplicate itself.
“We lost both of our experienced big men [Brenton Balsbaugh and Jon Gerken] who had started for a few years and really did a lot of good things for us, so we have a new group of guys playing inside with a little bit of experience.
“Then we lost Austin Weatherford, who was a three-time all-conference player. So not only will we be playing without him and his abilities, but we’ve also got to get used to playing with a different type of point guard. And maybe there are some things that we can add with a different type of point guard — more of a set--up type of point guard — whereas Austin was a score-first type of point guard. And we really have to replace Nate Gissentanner, who gave us offensive ability off the bench and energy. We’ve got to have somebody [new] to provide that.”
Rose-Hulman men’s basketball
Name Ht. Yr.
Jake Dodd 6-4 Sr.
Wade Stallings 5-5 Fr.
Dillon Reynolds 5-10 So.
Corey Povaleri 6-1 Jr.
James Pillischafske 6-2 Sr.
Jordy Martin 5-11 Sr.
Brian McHugh 6-3 Sr.
Julian Strickland 6-3 Sr.
Tyler Duffy 6-5 So.
Mitch Williams 6-10 So.
Collin Wojcik 6-4 Fr.
Jimmy Miller 6-5 So.
Brian Decker 6-5 So.
Michael Hallstein 6-6 Jr.
Matt Loesing 6-9 So.
Alec Houpt 6-5 Sr.
Caleb Allen 6-0 So.
Chris Schenk 6-1 Fr.
Coach — Jim Shaw (281-215 in 20th season).
Today — Washington (St. Louis) U. in Lopata Classic at Washington, 9 p.m.
Saturday — vs. Chicago in Lopata Classic at Washington, 7 p.m.
Nov. 30 — Carroll, 3 p.m.
Dec. 2 — Wabash, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 4 — at Anderson*, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 7 — at Transylvania*, 3 p.m.
Dec. 9 — at Milllikin, 8 p.m.
Dec. 11 — at DePauw, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 14 — Manchester*, 4 p.m.
Dec. 21 — John Carroll, 2 p.m.
Jan. 4 — Bluffton*, 3 p.m.
Jan. 8 — Earlham*, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 11 — at Defiance*, 3 p.m.
Jan. 15 — Franklin*, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 18 — Mount St. Joseph*, 3 p.m.
Jan. 22 — at Hanover*, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 25 — Transylvania*, 3 p.m.
Jan. 29 — Anderson*, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 1 — Defiance*, 3 p.m.
Feb. 5 — at Earlham*, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 8 — at Manchester*, 5 p.m.
Feb. 12 — Hanover*, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 15 — at Bluffton*, 3 p.m.
Feb. 19 — at Franklin*, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 22 — at Mount St. Joseph*, 5 p.m.
Feb. 28-March 22 — HCAC tournament at No. 1 seed, TBA
* — denotes Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference game