Two of the three players who had been dealing with ankle injuries for the past two weeks have been cleared to play today at Calvin College.
Sophomore Jamares McCloud is the only Raven expected not to be available today. Senior Phil Hogan and sophomore Nate Gross have healed and will be in the starting lineup.
It’s been an interesting preseason for AU, which hadn’t been able to practice with full five-on-five drills until Monday, stemming from a physical scrimmage against Wabash two weeks ago.
“The last two weeks, we’ve had to practice without actually playing basketball,” first-year head coach Owen Handy said with an exasperated smile. “We spent a half-hour today just playing basketball.”
Hogan averaged a team-high 19.5 points a year ago and was named first team All-Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference. He will be heavily leaned on to lead a young roster, especially early in the season.
“We really have one player who can create his own shot, and it’s Phil,” Handy said. “This isn’t a mystery to anybody, Phil will have the ball in his hands a lot, especially in big moments.”
Hogan and Gross will be joined in the starting lineup by sophomores Isaac Loechle and Andrew Larrick and freshman Adam Miller.
Handy believes Hogan’s ability to penetrate and draw extra defenders will open things up for the rest of the Ravens.
Gross, a former star at Madison-Grant, figures to be among the beneficiaries.
The 6-foot-6 forward played in 13 games as freshman, averaging just 3.1 minutes per game. But he’s already impressed Handy with his work ethic and commitment to the game.
“Nate plays himself to exhaustion quicker than anybody I’ve ever coached,” Handy said. “He plays so hard all the time, and I love coaching him for that reason.”
Now Handy is trying to get Gross to be more aggressive around the basket.
There are certain drills in which Gross is only allowed to dunk, and Handy is emphasizing that skill with all of his interior players — including Larrick, Miller and sophomore Levi Gleason.
Each player has shown promise in the post, but none is at a point where offensive sets can be built around him.
“Eventually, Nate’s going to be a guy who we can dump the ball into and he will consistently score in the post,” Handy said. “He’s not, yet. Nate’s going to get there, but right now he’s a November sophomore.”
Handy said most perimeter players make their biggest leap from their freshman to their sophomore seasons. With post players, that leap tends to come a year later.
“It’s just so much more physical (inside),” Handy said.
The Ravens are looking forward to today’s game, if for no other reason than to break the monotony of practice. Handy said the players are tired of hearing his voice, and it’s time to measure up against an outside opponent.
A strong Calvin team, however, might not be Handy’s first choice.
“We’re gonna play whoever’s on the schedule,” Handy said. “We’re going to go over there and throw a punch and see what happens.”
—George Bremer is a reporter for The Herald Bulletin. Photo credit: David Humphrey. Story republished with permission.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson University continues to be recognized as one of America's top colleges by U.S. News and World Report, The Princeton Review, and Forbes. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, music, nursing, and theology.