The 2013-2014 William Jewell College (WJC) men’s basketball season ended in the first round of the Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC) Tournament. Overall, the team went 11-16 (7-11).
“We made a run at the end of the year, with the highlight being the defeat of the #2 ranked Drury Panthers,” Larry Holley, Head Coach said.
This game proved to instill a lot of confidence in the team, as they advanced to the playoffs. The Cardinals travelled to Louisville, Ky. to take on the Bellarmine Knights in the first round of the GLVC tournament. The Knights held a 20 point lead at halftime, but the Cardinals came out in the second half shooting. The Cardinals then took the lead with six minutes remaining, but could not hold on; they lost 82-69 to end of the season.
However, after three losing seasons, Coach Holley and the Cardinals are looking to turn things around. The team has 10 new faces, including three transfers and seven first-years. The recruiting class is highlighted by the signing of Christian Hildebrandt, senior, a wing player and transfer from the Division I University of Texas-Pan American.
“He is very versatile player who can play as a two guard, wing, and forward. He can also get to the rim,” Holley said.
Along with Hildebrandt, the team added point guard Darius Tomlin, junior, to the roster. Tomlin, who transferred from Southwest Community College in Memphis, Tenn., “brings experience, good defensive skills, and athleticism [to the team]”, Holley said.
The third transfer student is point guard Jason King, junior and a Fort Osage High School graduate who played two years at Hannibal LaGrange Community College.
Along with these transfer students, the team added seven first-years to the team.
Emil Ostafiiciuc, first-year, a 6-foot-9 center from Moldova “will demand attention in the low post,” Holley said. In the early season, he is taking reps with the starting group and his back-to-the-basket fundamentals should bode well for the team this season.
Muusa Dama, first-year, comes to William Jewell from West Africa as a 6-foot-9 with a 7-foot-2 wing span. Dama’s athleticism and fundamental play will bring a defensive presence for the team this year.
Easton Koch, first-year, an Olathe East High School graduate, joins the team as a point guard. He has high potential, high coach-ability, and the ability to shoot from the 3-point line. He will be fighting for playing time at the point guard position.
Patrick Whelan, first-year, brings to the team his excellent ball handling and superior shooting skills. He is from Manchester, Eng., and he will be serving as a point guard and a shooting guard.
Payton Meek, first-year, is a perimeter player. After completing his high school career at Park Hill South, he brings his enthusiasm and physical play when he takes the court.
Zach Lamb, first-year, comes to the team after playing his high school career at Lee’s Summit North. He is a two guard who is known to have an “excellent shot from beyond the arch.”
Simon Zajicek, first-year, is a point guard from the Czech Republic. He is extremely team-oriented, and will be competing for playing time at the either the one or two guard.
Holley said that the hardest part of having ten new faces on a team is “taking the time to teach them the offensive and defensive sets.” Holley said that he “likes the new group. They have a lot of potential to be great students and athletes.”
The main goal for the season is for all of the players to reach their full potential and be the best team that they can be.
“We are extremely young, so our success will be dependent on how fast our new guys are able to work together at the NCAA Division-II level,” Holley said. “The team brings a lot of energy and enthusiasm day in and day out.”
Holley says that a lot of this early success is because of the leadership displayed by Jordan Lewis, senior and shooting guard who is a returning letterwinner for the Cards.
“I am just trying to give back to the younger guys, off and on the court,” Lewis said. “They respect me and I respect them back.”
Lewis hopes that this season will bring him closer to his lifelong dream of playing professionally. He is extremely excited for the new season and that the new players will follow his lead and play to their potential.
“I want to leave a good mark, I want to go out with a bang,” Lewis said.
The Cardinals are currently projected to finish sixth in the GLVC West for the 2014-2015 season. The team traveled to Columbia, Mo. Oct. 29 to play Southeastern Conference (SEC) Division-I University of Missouri. The Cardinals struggled against the high-tempo defense, shooting 9-52 from the field. The Mizzou Tigers pushed by the Cardinals, winning 72-31. The Cardinals will return to the Mabee Center on Nov. 15 to play Livin’ The Dream in exhibition play. The regular season begins on Nov. 21, as the team travels to St. Joseph, MO to play Northwest Missouri State University in the annual Hillyard Classic, hosted by Missouri Western State University, who will play the Cardinals on Nov. 22.
The Cardinal’s full schedule can be viewed here