Looking Forward To A New Season
Photo by Koehler Photography
The Wittenberg University men's basketball team expects the return of eight letterwinners as it prepares for the 2001-02 season and pursuit of back-to-back North Coast Athletic Conference championships. The 2000-01 Tigers captured the NCAC regular season title by winning their final 15 regular season conference games, which propelled them to an outstanding overall record of 24-4 and eventually to a berth in the NCAA Division III national. The Tigers defeated Maryville College (Tenn.) in advancing to the Sweet 16.
The Tigers graduated several key players from last year's squad, including second-team All-American and NCAC Player of the Year Ryan Taylor, second-team All-NCAC selection Chris Fillmore, starting point guard Kyle Krauss and bench leader Alex Welp. Taylor, who finished his career ninth on Wittenberg's all-time career scoring list, led the team in scoring with 16.1 points per game and shot an outstanding 47.3 percent from the three-point line. Fillmore started all 28 games and ranked among the team leaders in points (9.3), rebounds (5.0) and minutes played (24.1). Krauss was a solid contributor at the point guard position and the team's toughest perimeter defender.
Heading the list of returnees this season are two starters, senior Greg Rustad (Lakewood, Ohio/Lakewood) and junior Kevin Longley (Vandalia, Ohio/Butler). Rustad, a 6-0 guard averaged 7.8 points per game and was second on the team in assists (2.7). He also shot 42 percent from behind the three-point arc and an outstanding 82 percent from the charity stripe. Longley, a 6-6 forward, led the team in rebounding (8.9) while also adding 11.3 points per game. He was a second-team All-NCAC selection, as well as a member of the Kiwanis/Wittenberg Holiday Classic and the NCAC All-Tournament teams.
Other letterwinners expected to vie for starting positions and key playing roles are 6-3 senior wing Chad Mossing (Maumee, Ohio/Holland Springfield), 6-7 senior post Brian Gratsch (Madeira, Ohio/Madeira), 6-7 junior forward B.J. Harris (Riverside, Ohio/Stebbins), 6-6 sophomore forward Peter Walker (Louisville, Ky./St. Xavier), 5-9 sophomore guard Mark Borland (Kettering, Ohio/Alter), and 6-1 sophomore guard Rod Emmons (South Bend, Ind./Adams).
Mossing had a strong finish to the season after recovering from a broken bone in his foot that sidelined him the first two months of the campaign. The availability of Gratsch, a potential starter for the upcoming season, is uncertain as he recovers from a severe staph infection of his knee. Harris averaged 8.8 points and 6.8 rebounds per game in a key reserve role. Harris is now looked to step into Fillmore¹s starting position. Walker¹s high energy level makes his continued improvement a key element to the Tiger¹s season. Borland started seven games at the point guard position when Krauss was injured and had several big game performances.
The Tigers have, per tradition, put together a very challenging schedule for the 2001-02 season. In addition to a very demanding NCAC schedule, the Tigers will also test themselves with difficult non-conference games. Wittenberg will tip off their season playing NAIA power Mt. Vernon Nazarene College in the first round of the Wheaton College tournament. Wheaton and Cardinal Strich (Wisc.) round out the field. This year's Wittenberg/Kiwanis Holiday Classic teams includes Illinois College, Baldwin-Wallace College and Marian College (Ind.). The rest of the non-conference schedule includes local NAIA scholarship schools Cedarville College and Urbana University, long-time, traditional Ohio Athletic Conference foe Otterbein College, former NCAC member Case Western Reserve and independent Thomas More College (Ky.).
Wittenberg is the winningest program among all 350+ NCAA Division III basketball programs by victories (1,412) and is second in winning percentage (.703). When compared to all NCAA basketball programs, Wittenberg's winning percentage ranks eighth, in front of such powers as UCLA, Kansas, Syracuse and Duke. In addition, the Tigers have more Division III tournament appearances (20), victories (41) and Final Four berths (6) than any other program in the country. In 45 consecutive winning seasons, dating back to 1956-57, the Tigers have averaged 21 wins per season and won 28 regular season conference titles.
TIGERS IN THE NCAC
Wittenberg is the winningest team in the NCAC when records are compared for the league's 16-year history in conference games. The Tigers' 11-year NCAC record is 181-34 (.837). Wittenberg has won the regular season title eight of the 12 years they have been in the league.
HOME SWEET HOME
Wittenberg's home court has traditionally been a very difficult place for opponents to play. Since the 1957-58 season, the Tigers have an incredible 452-50 record at home for a .900 winning percentage. Since moving into the HPERC Center in 1982, Wittenberg is 247-28 at home for a .898 winning mark in all games. In all NCAC regular season games since joining the conference in 1989, the Tigers have an even more amazing 199-18 home record for .920 percent. Much of this success is fueled by enthusiastic crowds which annually rank Wittenberg in the top ten for home game attendance among all NCAA Division III institutions.
COACH BILL BROWN
Head Coach Bill Brown (Wittenberg '73) has a record of 180-47 (.793) in seven seasons at his alma mater. His teams are 111-19 in NCAC play and 10-5 in NCAA tournament action. The Tigers have won four NCAC regular season titles in Brown's eight years. Under Brown's direction, Wittenberg teams have appeared in five NCAA Division III national tournaments with a trip to the Final Four in 1994, an Elite Eight appearance in 1996, and a Sweet 16 trip in 2001.
WBLY (AM 1600) carries all the action of Wittenberg Tiger basketball, both at home and on the road. Coverage includes 15 minute pre-game and post-game shows with Head Coach Bill Brown as well as with selected Tiger players. Veteran sportscaster Marty Bannister, now in his 10th year as the Voice of the Tigers, calls the play-by-play.
WITTENBERG ON THE WEB AND TEAMLINE
Wittenberg's web site offers live world-wide broadcast of all Tiger basketball games via WBLY as well as up-to-date information on the team. Scores, results, stats, boxscores and the most recent press releases are all available to anyone with access to the internet. Wittenberg University's home page address is http://www.wittenberg.edu.
In addition, all of WBLY's broadcasts can also be heard anywhere in the world through an arrangement with TEAMLINE. TEAMLINE is accessed on a touchtone phone by calling 1-800-846-4700.
Wittenberg University is one of America's foremost undergraduate liberal arts and sciences universities. The school, founded in 1845, has over the past 155 years built an impressive reputation for academic distinction and for preparing outstanding graduates for successful professional careers and rewarding lives. Wittenberg, which has one of only 258 Phi Beta Kappa chapters nationwide, is mentioned in glowing terms in nearly every college reference book.