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2017-2018 Men’s Basketball Preview

Samuel Murphy, Staff Reporter

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Balls bouncing on the hardwood, new shoes squeaking with every hard cut and the sweet sound of the ball swishing through the net can only mean one thing — basketball season is back at IU Southeast.

The Grenadiers are coming off a 24-7 (16-2 in conference) season which included a regular season conference crown and an appearance in the River States Conference (RSC) tournament title game. However, the season ended abruptly with an early first round exit from the NAIA tournament.

The team will have a good blend of upperclassmen and young talent. The key for the year will be making sure the young players are ready to make the adjustment to the college game.

“We’ve got a lot of young guys that are going to play,” Wiley Brown, head men’s basketball coach, said. “It’s taking awhile for them to get used to the speed of the game, but they’re good players and with experience, they’ll be fine.”

It will be up to the upperclassmen leadership to make sure the freshmen and sophomores are ready to play. Brown is fortunate to have three starters and four seniors returning to the team this year to help guide the young players on the court.

“It’s great having guys like [Demetrius] Stanton, [Joe] Jackson and [Jacob] Mills who have so much experience here,” Brown said. “When the young guys are out on the court, they can be the coaches on the floor with them.”

Senior guard, Demetrius Stanton, is one of those returning starters. He knows exactly what the freshmen are going through and knows they need to be ready to play from the opening tip.

“I’ve been here for four years now and know what they’re going through,” Stanton said. “We (the seniors) try to lead by example, they have to learn a lot on the fly, and we try to bring them up with positivity and words of encouragement.”

Eight freshmen have joined the team coming into this season. The incoming crop might not have the experience yet, but the talent is there.

With two open spots for new starters to the lineup, Brown believes the competition in practice will allow the best group of five to rise to the top. He thinks highly of these freshmen and some of them can crack into a starting role.

“Austin [Sappingfield] is a long, lengthy guy at 6-foot-9 and has great footwork down low,” Brown said. “Lukas Burkman is a great shooter and can play the 1, 2 or 3 spot for us, and David Burton, his teammate from Trinity has really surprised us. He’s really a good player with an old-school type of game.”

Stanton believes the incoming big men will play the biggest role in determining the team’s success this season.

“I think most of what we’re missing from last year is the bigs,” Stanton said. “Austin Sappingfield can shoot the ball really well and will give us good size, and when Conner [Sevier] gets cleared in about 6 to 8 weeks, they’ll be a big help to Joe down low.”

If the youth is able to play up to their true talent level and avoid some of the mistakes many freshmen make when taking the step up to the next level, it would be difficult for this team to not repeat as RSC west champs. The Grenadiers were voted to finish second overall and to win the West division in the 2017-18 River States Conference Men’s Basketball Preseason Coaches’ Poll.

“We just got to play our game,” Stanton said. “A lot of teams don’t like our pressure or tempo, and that’s where we get a lot of our points. We had a good season playing our game last year and I think we can do it again.”

The path to repeating as champs will be a true test with a conference as loaded as the RSC. Brown thinks the conference has strengthened from top to bottom since the time he first became head coach of the Grenadiers.

With the strength of the conference growing, he believes the home conference games will all put on a good show for fans in attendance.

“We’ve got a really tough conference this year,” Brown said. “Any conference games we have at home, we hope the fans can come out because it’ll be a really enjoyable brand of basketball.”

The Grenadiers will open the season on the road on Saturday, Oct. 28, at Harris-Stowe State University. The home opener will be the following week on Saturday, Nov. 4, against Miami-Middletown.

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2017-2018 Men’s Basketball Preview