2008-09 Season Outlook

David Nowicki

David Nowicki is one of just five returning letterwinners on the Wittenberg roster in 2008-09.

The Wittenberg University men's basketball program hopes that history, indeed, does repeat itself. The last time a Tiger team lost 10 games in a season, the program proceeded to reel off nine 20-win seasons over the next 10 years, winning four conference regular season championships, three conference tournament titles and reaching the NCAA Division III Final Four twice during that time.

A late-season swoon in the 2007-08 season led to an overall record of 16-10, a tie for second place in the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) regular season race and a disappointing first-round home loss in the NCAC Tournament. Veteran Head Coach Bill Brown is counting on outstanding play from senior Kevin Murray, who leads a small but talented contingent of returning players, and an outstanding recruiting class to put the Tigers back on track.

If the Tigers, with the most wins and highest winning percentage in NCAA Division III men's basketball history, are to extend their amazing run of 52 consecutive non-losing seasons in 2008-09, they will need to find other scorers to replace Gregg Hill, a bona fide conference player of the year candidate before suffering an injury in the offseason.

Hill, who has scored 920 points in his illustrious collegiate career, did it all for the Tigers in 2007-08, leading the way with 16.5 points per game while becoming the first Wittenberg player since 1995-96 to average more than 30 minutes per contest. A first-team All-NCAC honoree after earning second-team all-conference honors in 2006-07, Hill ranked among team leaders in steals, assists and free throw and field goal percentage. Unfortunately, Hill will not play for the Tigers in 2008-09 due to the injury.

Murray, an outstanding perimeter shooter, now must pick it up after finishing the 2007-08 season with a flourish. After a slow start, Murray ended up averaging 11.8 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. Selected as the team's Most Improved Player for the 2007-08 season, Murray shot a team-best 87 percent from the free throw line, 43 percent from three-point range and 49 percent overall from the field.

Senior Kyle Bigler and junior David Nowicki were expected to add experience in the backcourt, but Bigler was lost for the season due to a knee injury in the fall. Both two-year letterwinners, the tandem guards averaged more than 24 minutes per game off the bench a year ago, hitting a combined 29 three-pointers and handing out 34 assists. Nowicki is projected to take over the starting point guard duties in 2008-09.

Bigger questions exist with the Tigers' inside game. The graduation of Brandan Barabino and Sam Gregory from last year's squad will require that junior forward Mark Snyder step his game up in 2008-09. Other returning players who have an opportunity to emerge as regular contributors in 2008-09 include junior Brad Folta and sophomore Lewis Buzzard. Both players dealt with assorted injuries and illness last season which did not permit them to establish consistent playing time for themselves.

Brown, who ranks first in career coaching victories at Wittenberg, has high hopes for the members of an outstanding recruiting class, including sophomore guard Chris Sullivan, who played more than 400 minutes as a freshman last season at Franklin & Marshall. In addition, freshmen Alex Brandt, a 6-7, 220-pound post player from Olentangy High School, Clayton Black, a 6-7, 205-pound forward from Lancaster High School, and Jacob Weide, a 6-6, 195-pound wing/forward, were all highly recruited student-athletes. The Tigers also look to get help from outstanding two-sport athletes Josh McKee and Michael Cooper, who will join the team after playing key roles for the Wittenberg football squad this fall, in addition to Drew Fisher, who finished the fall season at the Tigers' third-string quarterback.

2008-09 Team Information

Returning Letterwinners (4)
Gregg Hill (G/W, 6-0, Sr.)
Kevin Murray (W, 6-3, Sr.)
David Nowicki (G, 5-9, Jr.)
Brad Folta (F, 6-5, Jr.)
Mark Snyder (P, 6-6, Jr.)
Letterwinners Lost (6)
Brandan Barabino
Sam Gregory
Tim Beck
Brandon White
Derrick Hannon
Jeromy Romero
Other Returning Players (5)
Lewis Buzzard (F, 6-7, So.)
Seth Hill (G, 6-1, So.)
Jeff Lee (F, 6-7, So.)
John Lowther (G, 6-1, So.)
Kyle Peterson (W, 6-1, So.)
Newcomers (11)
Clayton Black (F, 6-7, Fr.)
Alex Brandt (P, 6-7, Fr.)
Michael Cooper (W, 6-4, Fr.)
Michael Duffy (G, 6-0, Fr.)
Drew Fisher (W, 6-1, Fr.)
Sam Gardner (P, 6-6, Fr.)
Josh Mason (F, 6-5, Jr.)
Josh McKee (W, 6-0, Fr.)
Chris Sullivan (G, 5-10, So.)
Jacob Weide (W, 6-6, Fr.)
James Tyus (G/W, 6-1, Fr.)
Injured Returning Letterwinners (2)
Gregg Hill (G/W, 6-0, Sr.)
Kyle Bigler (G, 5-8, Sr.)