Coach, it’s hard to believe that you have already played ten games. How has the season gone so far in your opinion?
Obviously, I am happy being 8-2 but we could very easily have been 10-0. We let two big leads slip away against two very good teams. We were up 16 points at the half against Cornerstone University (NAIA II) and they beat us at the buzzer. They were ranked #4 at the time and then they go and upset the #1 team in the NAIA a week later. Davenport University was ranked #11 and are now 8-0. We were up 16 with under ten minutes to go and lost by four. They went on a 16-0 run because we could not hit a shot. We had wide open looks and couldn’t hit anything. Sometimes those things happen. I know we learned alot about ourselves early in the season in those games. So, all in all, I am happy where we are and the progress we’ve made so far.
How have the new players fit in here at Grace?
John Oostema has been a very good fit for us. He can play the point and the two. He has had to make a few adjustments to how we play but we have been very pleased at his play. Aaron Schutte hasn’t played as many minutes early as we would have liked but it is because we are learning how best to use him. His minutes have picked up the last few games. He is too athletic to keep on the bench.
Injuries are playing a part so far this year. What have the affects been?
Zach Schutte was scheduled to be back at the beginning of the season. He was all set but his foot continued to hurt so they checked it out again and the docter put him back in the boot for another six weeks. He was scheduled to be back this past week but his doctor said another six weeks. He would have been in contention for a starting spot. He worked very hard this past summer and would have been a huge asset to us this year. Ryan Krombeen has been slowed by a nagging shin injury. He missed a week of practice and is still hurting. Bryce Stanhope had a great summer and should really help us at the guard spot when he returns. He can shoot it and we need some help from outside. Dauntrell Hill is a guard that will give other teams fits. He is 6’2″ and can fly. He will give us that dribble penetration that we miss sometimes. He is a hard nosed defender too. All three of these players will take us to another level when they return.
You are ranked #1 in the country in both the NCCAA II polls and the CCSN Coaches Poll. It has to feel good to be recognized as the best team in the country.
It is nice to be considered one of the top teams in the country but we know that it can all be done in a hurry if you aren’t ready to play each week. I know it sounds cliche’ but it only matters if you are number #1 when the season is over.
There are quite a few comments on CCSN that claim that Grace may not be the best team in the country. Any feelings on this?
Um…..(laughs)……Not really. I know that the rest of the country is ready for their new Cinderella team. People might be a little tired of Grace being in the news. I know that’s the way sports can go. When you begin to hear comparisons of who beat who by how much and who plays who better, it’s the media trying to move you out and someone else in. We don’t play into that at all. We just try to get better each week in preparation for the Regional Tournaments and hopefully National Tournament. There have been games that we could have scored more points or increased the point spread but it’s not about that for us. We try to use each game to get players experience and try some new things in game situations. I know I can watch a game on TV and sit there and think the coach should do this or that. The coach knows what needs to be accomplished and where he wants to lead the team. I enjoy the comments about us but sometimes it’s funny to read what we should or should not be doing or how we struggle in this area or that. Every game plan is different and every situation is different. The object of each game is to win it and get better for the next one. You need to make sure you rest players when possible and know when to let your bench get some experience, You always have to see the big picture and not worry about impressing people for the polls.
Who do you think will be the teams to beat at the National Tournament?
Not sure. My only concern right now is that we make it there.
Last question. Allen Durham has been mentioned as a candidate for the NCCAA II Player of the Year. What are your thoughts?
Allen is certainly the best player I have seen in the NCCAA II. His stats are solid and he is a great person and a great teammate. He definitely puts winning above personal stats. One of the reasons we have been successful is because he does what we need him to do to win. He is unselfish and makes his teammates better. He could average 30+ points a game if he played the minutes but knows that the development of other players will play a key in the long season. I hope this is a special season for Allen and Dan Dame, our two seniors. They have both been great contributors to our program.
The Tigers will play in the NCCAA II Midwest Regional Tournament in Dubuque, Iowa next week.