NewsCougars Enter 2005-2006 Hoops Season with High Expectations
written by Dave Parsons, Sports Information Director
MOUNT VERNON, Ohio - After posting a 21-11 overall record in 2004-2005 as the team topped the 20-win mark for the fourth straight year and the eighth time in the last nine seasons, the Mount Vernon Nazarene University men’s basketball team has high expectations as the Cougars prepare to tip off the 2005-2006 campaign.
"We could characterize our last two years as having overachieving seasons,” said MVNU head coach Scott Flemming, who enters his 16th season at the helm with a 299-193 record at his alma mater. "It is always satisfying to accomplish more than what others expect. I would say that this year our expectations are higher from the onset. Last year, we finished third in the (American Mideast Conference) behind a national tournament final four team (Cedarville University) and the eventual NAIA Division II national champions (Walsh University). This would suggest two things. First, we are again knocking on the door of competing at the national level, and second, the AMC is one of the best conferences in the country.”
Fueling the positive outlook for Flemming and the Cougars is that fact that the team returns four starters and nine total players from last year’s successful squad. In addition, MVNU has two transfers who will make an immediate impact, and one other new player who will contribute to the team having more overall depth than in recent years.
The Cougars return both members of their starting backcourt from a year ago in seniors Alan Bock and Andrew Thompson. Bock, a 5-foot-6 point guard, led the team and ranked fourth in NAIA Division II in assists per game (6.8) last year, and he also averaged 7.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 2.7 steals. For his efforts, he was named to the AMC South Division Second Team and was a National Christian College Athletic Association East Region Honorable Mention pick.
Thompson, a 6-foot shooting guard, had his best season yet in 2004-2005 as he scored 14.6 points per game and nailed a team-best 94 three-pointers, which ranked 15th in NAIA Division II at 2.9 per game. Thompson was named to the AMC South Division Second Team and the NCCAA East Region Second Team, and he was also an NCCAA Honorable Mention All-American.
"Despite just being 5-6, Alan can dominate a game at times,” said Flemming. "His all-out hustle on both ends of the floor ignites our team and causes fits for our opponents. Andrew is another solid player who we will depend on to do much of our perimeter scoring.”
Junior post Mark Hess (6-foot-6) is coming off a breakout season in which he led the Cougars in scoring (17.9 points per game), rebounding (7.8 rebounds per game), and field goal percentage (54.8 percent). He also became the 27th player - and only third sophomore - in school history to reach the 1,000-point mark in career scoring. He was named to the AMC South Division First Team, the NCCAA East Region First Team, the NCCAA All-American Second Team, and the NAIA Division II Honorable Mention All-American Team.
"Mark is one of the top post players in our conference,” said Flemming. "He is a consistent player who is extremely effective around the basket. He carried us at times last year, so it will be important that we get the ball in his hands.”
Junior wing Ryan Seesholtz (6-foot-4) rounds out the four returning starters. Last season, Seesholtz averaged a career-high 11.4 points and 7.5 rebounds, and he was honored as an AMC South Division Honorable Mention selection.
"Ryan may be our most versatile player,” said Flemming. "He can score inside and outside, and he is one of our best defenders and rebounders.”
Three other seniors will be wrapping up their careers at MVNU. Nick Zarley, a 6-foot-4 wing, was a key contributor for the Cougars off the bench a year ago as he averaged 4.8 points and 3.3 rebounds while shooting a team-high 83.3 percent at the free throw line. Bryan Wyant, a 5-foot-10 guard, and Josh Haumschild, a 6-foot-6 post, will also add to the team’s depth.
Steve Mayes, a 7-foot junior center, has continued to improve each year and will play an even more significant role this season after averaging 7.9 points and 5.2 rebounds off the bench last season. Mayes also set a new school record a year ago with 79 blocked shots that ranked him seventh in NAIA Division II with 2.5 blocks per game. Sophomores Evan Yates, a 6-foot-5 wing, and Josh Smith, a 6-foot guard, also return with a year of college experience under their belts.
Newcomers Connor Gregg, Ben Falkenberg, and Andy Francis round out the roster for MVNU. Gregg, a 6-foot-7 sophomore forward, averaged 6.7 points and 3.2 rebounds as a freshman at Tiffin University after earning All-Ohio honors at Clear Fork High School. Falkenberg, a 5-foot-11 freshman guard, averaged 21.3 points in earning All-Ohio honors at Wadsworth High School, and he was recruited to the Naval Academy but transferred prior to using any eligibility. Andy Francis, a 6-foot-2 freshman guard/forward, averaged 21.7 points and 10.8 rebounds in being named to the All-Ohio Second Team at Fairlawn High School.
"Connor is our most athletic player who can score on the perimeter or in the post,” said Flemming. "He is a great addition to our returning players. Ben should also make a significant impact in his first year. He will be used at the point and shooting guard positions, and he is able to create on his own as well as make his teammates better around him. Andy is also a well-rounded player who can be used in a variety of positions.”
The Cougars will open up the regular season at the Trinity Christian (Ill.) College Tournament on November 4-5 with their first game against Cornerstone (Mich.) University, who is ranked eighth in the NAIA Division II preseason poll. Other big non-conference games will include match-ups against Ashland University and the University of Tampa, two NCAA Division II teams, and games against Houghton (N.Y.) College, Roberts Wesleyan (N.Y.) College, Daemen (N.Y.) College, Florida College, and Ohio Valley (W.V.) University. The team will also host the annual Food for the Hungry Holiday Invitational on December 2-3 that will include Calumet College-Saint Joseph (Ind.), Spalding (Ky.) University, and Concordia (Mich.) University.
MVNU, which received votes in the NAIA Division II preseason poll, will be tested every time out in the rugged AMC South Division. Cedarville is ranked fifth in the NAIA Division II preseason poll, while defending champion Walsh is 14th. In addition to Cedarville and Walsh, the Cougars will play home and away games against Ohio Dominican University, Malone College, Shawnee State University, Urbana University, Tiffin University, the University of Rio Grande, Wilberforce University.
"I know we will play hard and we should be a fun team to watch,” said Flemming. "Our style will still be built around up-tempo offense and stingy half-court defense. If we stay healthy and reach our full potential, it could be a special season. Although I believe we will be improved, how far we go will also depend on how strong the other teams in this highly competitive conference are. I really like this group of players and I am excited to see what we can accomplish.”