The success of the 2015 MVNU men’s basketball season hinges on unity and consistency.
“We’ve really, really got to come together as a team,” Coach Jared Ronai said. “We’ve got to build great team chemistry. If we become a very consistent defensive and rebounding team, then we have a chance to have some type of success.”
Ronai, in his second year at MVNU, said he is excited about the direction this year’s team is heading. The Cougars are 2-3 so far on the season.
“It’s a daily process,” Ronai said. “We’ve got to continue to get better each and every day.”
The Cougars graduated their two leading scorers from last year but return seven players from a team that went 19-13 last year.
Back for the Cougars are seniors Jacob Starinsky and Eric Roby, juniors Josh Ashwill and Patrick Lucas and sophomores Jordi Mas and Joey Schmitz. Senior Julian Henderson is out with a shoulder injury.
That core group will be a key to starting the season off right, Ronai said. These are players “that have been through how we play and how we do things each and every day,” he said.
Ronai said he is depending on his returning players to “step it up a notch” and fill some new, expanded roles.
“These are all guys that we’re expecting great things from,” he said.
Schmitz, a guard, grabbed the spotlight in the first week of the season with back-to-back 31-point games.
Freshman forward Brett Vipperman scored 15 to lead the Cougars in their most recent outing.
Vipperman is one of seven newcomers to the team this year including six freshman and one transfer.
With all the new players, Ronai said he spends a lot of time “initiating our new guys into the way we do things.”
“It has been a daily focus on the fundamentals,” Ronai said.
Once league play starts, the Cougars will go to battle in a very competitive Crossroads League, which saw four teams ranked in the NAIA Division II Men’s Basketball Coaches’ Preseason Poll. Indiana Wesleyan University came in 2nd in the nation, the University of Saint Francis came in at 4th, Grace College picked up the 14th spot, and Bethel University squeezed in at 22nd. The Cougars received votes, but did not place.
In the Crossroads League preseason poll, the Cougars were ranked fifth out of the 10 Crossroads League teams. The Cougars went went 9-9 in Crossroads League play last season and finished the year in the middle of the standings.