Men's Basketball Meets Albertson College For Season Opener

The Willamette University men’s basketball team travels to Caldwell, ID, this weekend to play Albertson College in its season opener at the two-day Albertson College Tournament.

The 2004-2005 season promises to be yet another exciting year of men’s basketball at Willamette University. Head Coach Gordie James (18th year, 297-167) welcomes back three starters from last year’s Northwest Conference runner’s up squad, as well as a number of letter winners from a team that went 17-8 in ‘03-04, including an impressive 12-4 in league action. Coupled with exciting newcomer Ian Mansfield, Bearcat Hoop will be looking to extend its streak of Top 3 finishes in the NWC to 4 consecutive years (and 5 out of the last 6).

Team captains Harold Sublett, Jr. (SR, Phoenix, AZ) and John Olinger (JR, Salem, OR), along with third year starter Brennan Garrelts (JR, Roseburg, OR) will lead the Bearcats through a highly competitive schedule, gunning for Willamette’s first outright league crown in a decade, as well as the program’s first visit to the NCAA DIII tournament.

In order to achieve these lofty expectations, the Bearcats will have to overcome the loss of yet another stellar class of seniors. David Force (1st Team ALL-NWC PG in ‘03-04) and Miles Sandgathe (ALL-NWC performer from 2002-2004) have exhausted their eligibility, along with PJ McDevitt and Ryan Rahlfs, all of whom have taken a host of game experience with them.

The Bearcats will once again look to find headline performers to fill the role of departed stars, having lost eight 1st Team ALL-NWC performers within the last five years, only to produce new ones the very next season.

Willamette navigates through a tough schedule for the 2004-2005 season, all teams which will provide an array of dangerous yet challenging competition. After the season opener against an NAIA powerhouse, Albertson College, the team will meet Concordia College for their last game of the tournament. Following the tournament, the Bearcats hit the road against a NCAA DIII tournament team in Pomona-Pitzer, an NCAA DI team (Northern Arizona), and finally the Bearcats return home to enter league play against defending champion Puget Sound (Sweet 16 participant a year ago). The Bearcats are in store for their usual competitive season, hosting rivals Whitworth, Linfield, Lewis and Clark, and the rest of the NWC.

Tip off for the Bearcats’ season opener is 8:00pm, Friday, at Albertson College, Caldwell, ID.

Projected Position by Position Breakdown

POINT GUARD: (Starter) A traditional position of excellence for Bearcat Hoop. The past three point guards in the program, Shawn Gahr (’00), Ryan Hepp (’02), and David Force (’03) were All-NWC) is manned by team captain Harold Sublett, Jr. Completing his final year in the program, “Junior” has started at all three perimeter spots, and returns to the position he was originally recruited for. Sublett possesses the ability to not only create shots for himself, but also to get into a gap and find a lay-up for a teammate. In addition, Sublett reprises his role as the Bearcats shutdown defender, something he has grown accustomed to over the past 3 seasons. (Reserves) With the loss of promising 2nd year guard Josh Erickson (knee injury), the Bearcats look to both Michael Plank and Drew Miller to provide quality minutes as the team’s floor general. When finished with his football duties, Plank will provide additional length and the ability to get the ball to the basket, while Miller has an explosive first step to the basket, and a quality mid-range jump shot.

SHOOTING GUARD: (Starter) Returning for his 2nd tour at the 2 spot, Salem native John Olinger brings a new offensive arsenal to his position. While still counted on to provide the outside shooting Willamette needs, Olinger has developed a mid range, pull-up attack that should enable him to be even more effective on the floor. Along with a renewed commitment to improve defensive play, Olinger appears ready to make a huge leap in the ’04-05 campaign. (Reserves) Behind Olinger, the Bearcats are confident Drew Miller, Henry Greeley and Robbie Andrus are capable of making plays in crucial situations. Miller has become one of the team’s better defenders, Greeley can score in bunches, and Andrus’ all-around ability has loads of potential.

SMALL FORWARD: (Starter) Junior CJ Stuvland will get the nod here, allowing the Bearcats to have 3 quality ball handlers on the floor at one time. A vastly improved defender, Stuvland is one of the Bearcats’ fastest endline to endline players, and will be counted on to run the floor and find easy scoring opportunities for himself and teammates. (Reserves) Greeley will figure into the rotation here as well as at the 2 spot, as will freshman Ian Mansfield, a physical player with a nice outside touch. Both players give the Bearcats a different look than Stuvland, improving the overall versatility of the team.

POWER FORWARD: (Starter) Todd Lewis mans this post position for the Bearcats (although it could be said both posts are interchangeable in Coach Gordie James’ attacks). An excellent athlete, Lewis has developed a steady touch from the outside and surprised many with his consistent quality passing. With his ability to play above the rim, Lewis will be asked to guard taller post players, as well as maintain the rebounding edge Willamette has enjoyed the past 3 seasons. (Reserves) Freshman Mansfield will see a majority of his minutes here, bringing an added post defender into the rotation. Mansfield’s knowledge of the Bearcat system is improving steadily, and he will be counted on to crash the offensive glass, and battle taller posts all season. Jason Luchterhand will also be counted on to provide energy and hustle off the bench. Perhaps the Bearcats’ most improved player, Luchterhand will be asked to defend and rebound, something he is more than capable of doing.

CENTER: (Starter) Brennan Garrelts mans the middle for the third consecutive season. One of the league’s best low post defenders, Garrelts will be looking to raise his offensive production this season. A gifted athlete, Garrelts’ ability to fly up the floor (he is an NWC hurdles champion) and use his length to go after contested rebounds makes him a vital cog in the Bearcats’ success. (Reserves) Lewis will spend time here, as will Mansfield, giving the Bearcats a formidable trio of length and size in the middle. In addition, Jacob Baran, a former Willamette football player, from Beaverton, OR, will be used in certain situations that utilize his knowledge of the game, and ability to make heady decisions.

COACH: (Head) Entering his 18th season at the helm of Bearcat Hoop, Head Coach Gordie James has garnered a career record of 296-167. He is the all-time wins leader at Willamette, and has guided the Bearcats to the 1993 NAIA National Championship, the 2000 NWC Tournament Championship, and three consecutive NWC Runner Up finishes (2002-2004). (Assistants) Joining James will be long time assistant Wally Wing (18th year), and former players Nelson Lomax (6th year) and Kip Ioane (4th year, WU ’01, MAT ’02).