(KIP'S CORNER) Bearcats Return Top-Notch Club In Search of NWC Title

CONE FIELD HOUSE — Coupled with the return of two all-conference players, a dynamic point guard, and an exciting recruiting class, Willamette University’s men’s basketball team will look to reestablish itself amongst the elite of the Northwest Conference in 2005-2006.

Head Coach Gordie James (307-181, 19 seasons) will look to captains John Olinger (2nd team All-NWC), Josh Erickson (back from a knee injury that cost him all of 2004-2005) and CJ Stuvland (HM All-NWC) to lead the Bearcats back from an injury-plagued campaign a year ago.

While Willamette loses captain Harold Sublett, Jr. and NWC rebounding champion Todd Lewis off of last year’s roster, Coach James and staff are excited about the ability of Ian Mansfield (So, Hillsboro, Or), Jason Luchterhand (Sr, Grants Pass, Or), and Drew Miller (Sr, Keizer, Or) to flourish in expanded roles.

In addition, Robbie Andrus (Jr, Chimacum, Wa), Jacob Baran (Sr, Beaverton, Or), Brennan Garrelts (Sr, Roseburg, Or) and three-sport athlete Michael Plank (Sr, Stockton, Ca) will all be counted on to help Willamette achieve not only a berth in the NWC Tournament (back after a two-year absence), but a bid to the NCAA DIII National Tournament as well (recently expanded to a 59 team field).

Coupled with a strong recruiting class, including David Fife (Canby, Or) and Corey Costantino (Ashland, Or), the Bearcats will have the talent and depth to compete with a schedule full of quality opponents. Willamette opens the season Nov. 18-19 against both Colorado College and CSU-Pueblo in Pueblo, Colorado.

(Assistant Basketball Coach Kip Ione writes a weekly column covering Bearcat Hoop.)