2005-06 Season Outlook

The Wittenberg University men's basketball program, with the most wins and highest winning percentage in NCAA Division III history, may have suffered deep player graduation losses, but their lofty annual goals remain the same for the 2005-06 season. A program with the highest of high expectations – thanks to an average of 22 wins per season since 1955 and an NCAA-record 23 appearances in the NCAA Division III Tournament – returns three starters and eight letterwinners overall a year after compiling a 25-4 season record and reaching the second round of the NCAA national tourney.

The Tigers' four losses came in most heartbreaking fashion. Wittenberg lost a three-point game in regulation, two regular season North Coast Athletic Conference games in multiple overtime periods and a double-overtime game against John Carroll in the second round of the NCAA Division III Tournament. Conversely, the outstanding 2004-05 season was punctuated with several big-game wins. The Tigers were victorious three times against opponents who were ranked No. 1 in the country at some point during the season, including wins over Cedarville and Wooster that knocked those teams out of the top spots in the polls. In addition, Wittenberg won regular season games at Capital, Otterbein and Ohio Northern in a unique road sweep of the second, third and fourth-seeded teams in the season-ending Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament.

A trio of outstanding seniors provide the foundation for what could be another special team. Daniel Russ is a 6-9 post player who, while second on the team in points and rebounds a year ago, came up big time and again in the biggest games, leading to North Coast Athletic Conference Player of the Year honors. A first-team All-Great Lakes Region and third-team All-America honoree, Russ was the NCAC Tournament MVP as the Tigers won that title to take the conference's automatic berth into the national tourney.

The team's leading scorer, Dane Borchers, a 6-8 post player, had the breakthrough season his coaches knew was possible from the moment he and his surgically repaired back reached campus in 2002. After missing his entire freshmen year with the back injury, Borchers progressed steadily in an outstanding sophomore season before breaking his wrist in the conference tournament title game. Fully healthy in 2004-05, Borchers was tremendous, leading the team in scoring and rebounding and ranking among the national leaders in shooting percentage. He earned second-team All-NCAC honors.

The Tigers' third proven inside-outside player is Kenny Brady, perhaps the most skilled of the trio overall. After an insignificant freshman campaign, Brady, a 6-4 wing player, broke out in 2003-04, averaging more than 10 points, four assists and five rebounds en route to earning second-team All-NCAC honors. Prior to the 2004-05 season, Brady went down with an ankle injury that required surgery and forced him to the sidelines until early January. He rounded into shape well, however, finishing fourth on the team in scoring and rebounding and playing a key role in the Tigers' run through the conference tournament.

The big question is who will surround Russ, Borchers and Brady. Four perimeter players graduated in May - three-year starting point guard Danny Brywczynski, four-year letterwinner Andy Bucheit, the team's top three-point shooter with 90 treys in 2004-05, underrated back-up point and shooting guard Kenny Molz and guard Brett Bowen, always a steadying influence. Their departure leaves a quartet of gaping holes in the 10-man rotation typically desired by Head Coach Bill Brown as they provided the bulk of the ball handling, perimeter shooting and leadership to last year's squad.

Four other letterwinners return in 2005-06, led by senior Phil Steffes, a 6-1 guard, who surprised everyone by starting all 29 games for the Tigers. Steffes provides the kinds of intangibles necessary to a winning team effort. Also back are junior Billy Bowen, a 6-1 guard, who the coaches expect to make major contributions this season, and junior post players Jack Hemenway and Mark Huelsman.

In addition, junior Pat Denbow, a 5-10 point guard, is back in the fold after dressing for every varsity game the last two years and gaining occasional playing time behind Brywczynski and Molz. The Tigers also welcome what appears to be an excellent recruiting class in 2005 with several talented perimeter players showing the potential to make an immediate impact at the varsity level.

2005-06 Team Information

Returning Letterwinners (8)
Dane Borchers (P, 6-8, Sr.)
Billy Bowen (G, 6-1, Jr.)
Kenny Brady (W, 6-4, Sr.)
* Pat Denbow (G, 6-0, Jr.)
Jack Hemenway (P, 6-5, Jr.)
Mark Huelsman (P, 6-5, Jr.)
Daniel Russ (P, 6-9, Sr.)
Phil Steffes (G, 6-1, Sr.)
* letter earned in 2004
Letterwinners Lost (4)
Kenny Molz
Brett Bowen
Danny Brywczynski
Andy Bucheit
Other Returning Players (4)
Lance Frank (W, 6-0, So.)
Sam Gregory (P, 6-5, Jr.)
Sean Hyland (G, 6-1, So.)
Nick Vukasovich (P, 6-6, So.)
Newcomers (13)
Trent Bailey (G, 6-0, Fr.)
Tim Beck (P, 6-5, Fr.)
Kyle Bigler (G, 5-8, Fr.)
Dan Bruce (W, 6-2, Fr.)
D.J. Corbett (W, 6-1, Fr.)
Gregg Hill (G, 6-0, Fr.)
Tyler Howard (W, 6-2, Fr.)
Matt McCurdy (G, 5-11, Jr.)
Jace McGonigle (G, 5-10, Fr.)
Dan McNeely (G, 6-2, Fr.)
Kevin Murray (W, 6-2, Fr.)
Sonny Snell (G, 5-10, Fr.)
Brandon White (G, 5-11, So.)