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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Valparaiso Crusader's 2011-2012 Team Preview

Valparaiso University Crusaders
23-12 overall      12-6 conference               Lost in first round of the CIT to Iona

What Valpo lost:
Cory Johnson (graduated), Michael Rogers (graduated), Howard Little (graduated), Brandon Wood (transferred), Coach Homer Drew (retired)

What Valpo gained:
Ben Boggs (transfer from Virginia Tech), Will Bogan (transfer from Ole Miss), Richie Edwards (JUCO transfer), Dino Jakolis (freshman), Vashil Fernandez (freshman), Coach Bryce Drew (promoted)

Roster Breakdown (*indicates my projected starter):
Hrvoje Vucic, Jr/So, 7’1’’ Center: Valpo fans are looking for Vucic to become a regular contributor this season.  His height could provide a real presence on defense for a Valpo team that hasn’t had a true center in the starting lineup in some time.  While I don't think he will be a starter, I do believe we will see much more of Hrvoje this year.  Vuch answered some questions and spoke about his goals for the upcoming season recently for SectionEE.

*Erik Buggs, Sr/Jr, 5’10’’ Point Guard: Buggs does a nice job running the point for the Crusaders.  He had a nice assist to turnover ratio last season.  I think Erik will get the first crack at the starting point position.  However, Buggs was an offensive liability last season though, if he can’t find a way to attract a defender expect to see his minutes decrease with the depth VU has at the guard position.  More on Buggs and his aspirations for the upcoming season here.

Tommy Kurth, Jr/So, 6’1’’ Guard: Kurth sat out all of last season with injury.  I'm not real familiar with Kurth, so I will just say I think he will need to work hard in practice to grab some of the important game minutes with the depth we have at the guard position.

*Jay Harris, So, 6’1’’ Guard:  A combo guard who can light it up from long range.  Harris hasn’t met a shot he doesn’t like.  Last year he had some trouble with the turnover as he adjusted to life at a D1 program, but was playing much better by year's end.  I expect Harris to stretch the defense and take another big step towards fulfilling his potential.  Jay will start for the Crusaders but only as long as turnovers don't plague him like they did for most of last year.

Matt Kenney, Jr, 6’3’’ Guard: A big guard who has played quality defense and has found ways to contribute on the offensive end.  He is a true hustle player with great hops who I think will step right into the role that Howard Little played last season (good rebounder and defender).  We would like to see Kenney’s shooting percentage from range improve this season (16%).

*Ryan Broekhoff, Jr, 6’6’’ Shooting Guard: A lanky guard who can fill it up from the outside.  Broekhoff will probably be the focus of many opposing defenses.  One of the best shooters in the conference look for Broekhoff to lead the Crusaders in points per game this year.  Ryan is also a very good rebounder and led the team in blocked shots (19) last season.

*Kevin Van Wijk, Jr, 6’8’’ Power Forward: Van Wijk biggest challenge is his own health.  If healthy, I suspect Van Wijk will have another good season for VU.  A banger in the paint who isn’t afraid to rough it up with opposing big men, Van Wijk brings a tough guy attitude to the team.  An area for KVW to work on would be defending without fouling.  A healthy Van Wijk would go a long way in helping the Crusaders find success this season.

Ben Boggs, Jr, 6’4’’ Guard: Boggs brings another shooter to the lineup for Coach Drew.  Here is more on our Virginia Tech transfer.  He may start come Horizon League season if he doesn't end up red shirting.

Will Bogan, Jr, 6’1’’ Guard: A combo guard with some real scoring ability.  Great court vision and the willingness to put his teammates first make him even more dangerous.  Bogan comes in through the graduation transfer rule from Ole Miss.  Read more from Bogan in our interview with him here.

*Richie Edwards, Jr, 6’8’’ Power Forward: Edwards comes to Valpo after a stellar two year career at JUCO Hillsborough C.C.  He has a nice mid range jumper and is a good rebounder.   Edwards will undoubtedly see big minutes in the front court.

Dino Jakolis, Fr, 6’4’’ Guard/Small Forward:  Still awaiting his name to show up on the official roster.  Jakolis is a big guard with a nice jump shot.   Jakolis comes to Valpo from prep school LaLumiere where he played against very good competition on a regular basis.  For more on Jakolis check out our interview here.  Dino will need to really prove his value with the team being very deep at his position.  A year learning the D1 game and a chance to work out with his coaches and teammates to put on some muscle weight and Dino will be a solid contributor come next year.

Vashil Fernandez, Fr, 6’11’’ Center:  Fernandez comes in with very raw basketball skills.  The big man is full of potential. I suspect Fernandez to see plenty of time on the court this season as he should be able to establish himself on the defensive end of the court immediately.  Rebounding, shot blocking, and offensive put backs will get Fernandez through and establish him as an up and coming player in the Horizon League.  For more on Fernandez click here. With his big body, Vashil could find himself in the starting lineup at some point this season.

Griffyn Carpenter, Fr, 6' Guard: A walk-on to the team this year, Carpenter comes from a small local high school in Triton.  He has led his teams on deep state tournament runs the past couple of years.  Carpenter is a great shooter and could see some playing time to help stretch the opposing defense.  Griffyn answered some questions for us earlier in the Summer, read it here.

Bryce Drew, Head Coach: Drew has made his impact felt immediately.  Getting a verbal commitment from a highly ranked local kid is something that Valpo hasn’t been able to do in sometime.  Fans are looking forward to a new era in Crusader hoops.  It should be interesting to see which starting Coach Drew has settled on come the middle of January.  He has a lot of solid players and could go with just about any combination of 8 or 9 guys.

Team Strengths:
Valpo should once again be one of the deepest teams in the HL this year, especially at the guard position.  VU boasts several tall bodies, a luxury not seen here in some time, so defending the paint should be a strength.  Valpo has been a very good shooting team, expect that to continue.  Last year VU held a slight rebounding edge over their opponents, with new big bodies, I expect team rebounding to be another strength of this year’s club.  Coach Drew should also have the ability to go big or small with his lineups depending on matchups. 

Team Weaknesses:
Many new faces could cause the team some issues when it comes to gelling on the court as a group.  I expect by the time league play begins any issue with this will most likely be resolved.  Along with all the new players is a new head coach who may or may not bring an entire different style of play.  While we have some tall guys we don’t have a lot of girth.  An opposing big man with some weight and muscle could push our bigs around if help doesn’t come quick enough.

How Valpo will fare in the Horizon League this year:
I suspect Valpo will finish in the top half of the league again this year.  I think this team is one year away from doing some special things.  I will pick Valpo to finish 4th in the league this season and host a HL tournament game.  The team could surprise Horizon League opponents and this writer if they manage to gel as a productive unit.  I think another visit to the CIT or CBI is in line for this season, which is not a bad thing.

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