Sports Column: Men’s basketball team shows promise

troub head shotHello Franciscan University! My name is Matt Merkel. I’m a senior here and will graduate in December of 2013. I have two more semesters to enjoy FUS athletics and it is incredibly exciting to have an outlet to talk about sports to the rest of the community. This column will be available for all students to voice their opinion. I will leave my email at the bottom of this article for anyone to ask questions that they want me to answer.

Now that I have introduced myself, it is necessary to talk about what has bothered me the most about FUS athletics this year. Am I the only one that thinks it is kind of weird when, during a timeout of any game, we play Owl City’s “Fireflies” at least once? I’ll never forget when I first went to a volleyball game last semester and during the second and third game the interlude of “Fireflies” came on and I couldn’t help but look at my buddy and just start laughing. If you made a list of songs I never expected to hear with my friend at a gym “Fireflies” would fall somewhere between the Spice Girls “Spice Up Your Life” and Destiny’s Child “Say My Name.” I’m not saying lets do all ACDC during a game break but it needs to be addressed.

On the flip side, one of the most interesting things happening in the gym besides a weird soundtrack is our Men’s Basketball team. Seriously, I have seen every home game this season and while they all end the same, the story has gotten progressively better. Even if you just look at the stats, there is obvious improvement in our team’s skill. For example, in our first game against Bethany College back in mid November, our best rebounder was Justin Horstman who gobbled up five rebounds. Tim Schenk got 10 points that same night.

Both players were going to be the foundation of this new team. Only one month later, both athletes were taken off the roster because of NCAA regulations. I can’t imagine anything ruining a young team’s chemistry like losing your two best players. At one point in early December, Horstman and Schenk were trading spots as the high scorer of the team; one would drop at least 18 points a game. After they left, head coach, John Lamanna had the hardest job in the office. He needed to rebuild a team already in a rebuilding process….and you thought your S.W.O.P job was hard.

Look at the team now, and you’ll see freshman, Joseph Rine, leading the team in rebounds. He grabs at least 10 rebounds a night at this point. If that wasn’t enough he is fourth in NCAA Division III in blocks a game. I don’t know if you missed it, but he’s a FRESHMAN. Rebounds and blocks tend to be a hustle stat. The fact that Rine is showing up his senior competition at this age is nothing short of incredible. When Rine isn’t leading in scoring (sometimes getting 20 points a game) Daniel Kleinschnitz and Christian Duke back up the team with usually 13 or 17 points.

The losses are not due to lack of hustle or lack of talent. And they are most certainly not due to bad coaching. For anyone that doesn’t know Coach Lamanna, he was the assistant coach at University of California’s Davis Campus and he also had two stints working with USA basketball. He also was an assistant coach on a college all-star team that competed against pro teams in New Zealand. I can’t imagine he has any problem “rallying the troops.” The guy is the most certified coach in the athletic department, hands down.

This team is so close to being dominant, it’s scary. FUS is going to lead their division if they can keep their team intact. If they continue to build this chemistry we’ll have a team as successful as the Hank Kuzma era. Seriously, put your binoculars on, you’ll see them in the distance. If you have any questions or love/hate my article let me know! merkelmatt@yahoo.com is always available.

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