The William Jewell College men’s basketball team went 9-17 in the 2015-2016 season and finished last in the GLVC West conference with a conference record of 4-14. This would probably explain why The Cardinals are seventh ranked (out of eight) in the GLVC West preseason polls.
Coach Holley hasn’t even flinched about it. When asked, he said “That’s fine with us, we get a chance to fool the prognosticators and predictors.”
Holley is relying on a very experienced team to accomplish this, as Jewell is bringing in seven seniors, two of whom are in their fourth year on the squad, Austin Regier and Chris Morrison. Morrison is a reserve forward averaging 6.7 minutes per game throughout his career, and Regier is a returning starter at the forward spot, a three-time “Hustle” award winner for Jewell, and last season led the GLVC conference in rebounding.
When mentioning Regier, Coach Holley said Regier “Plays with a lot of energy.”
The other seniors playing their final season on the Hill are Jorge Perez-Laham, an NCAA division I transfer from High Point University in North Carolina, Larry Fitzgerald, a second-year junior college transfer reserve forward, Matt Lassen, a second-year junior college transfer guard whom, as of now, is in the starting rotation, Simon Zajicek, a third-year reserve guard, and Javier De La Blanca, a second-year junior college transfer guard reserve who has bounced back and forth from starting lineup to key reserve in his time at Jewell. Perez-Laham, a transfer, and Nick Bradley, a freshman point guard from Benton Zion High School, are the two new additions to the team this season, but with seven seniors departing, the Cardinal fans should expect to see plenty more new faces on next year’s squad.
That being said, the Cards are returning with only three starting players from last season. Patrick Whelan will be returning as one of the team’s starting wings.
Holley said Whelan was “the team’s top defender” and he “played minutes at both the point guard and wing last season.”
Matt Lassen is the other wing and is a returning starter, after playing only 20 games last season.
Coach Holley said of Matt’s 2015-2016 season “He was beset by injury and illness last year” and described Matt as “the team’s top three-point threat.”
The aforementioned Regier is the final returning starter at the forward position.
Perez-Laham will be taking the reins at the starting point guard position. Whelan and Lassen will be the two starting wings on the perimeter. Regier will spend another season cleaning the glass at the forward spot, and third-year 6’10” Emil Ostafiiciuc will be starting the season at the center spot in the low post. Forwards Larry Fitzgerald and Javier De La Blanca will be, as Coach Holley said, the “key bench guys” this season.
When asked about what style of play students and fans should expect to see from the Cards this season, Holley said “We’re a man-to-man defensive team, we haven’t installed a zone package yet, and we may not,” and said the offense was a “high pick-and-roll, similar to what Kansas runs”.
Holley and the men’s squad are an optimistic group of veterans that will be looking to prove the preseason polls wrong. With key returning players having experience in Holley’s system, as well as an addition in Perez-Laham at point guard, and this year’s Cardinals have the tools necessary to do just that.