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The Wilkes University men’s basketball team will open their 2007-08 season on Monday, November 19th, when they host Baptist Bible College in the Marts Center at 7:00 p.m.
The Wilkes roster features 11 veterans from last season’s squad that posted an overall record of 12-11. Despite the presence of some experienced players, the Colonels will still have a youthful look to them with only two seniors on the roster. In fact, one of those seniors, guard Jeremy Kable, may be forced to miss the season due to an injury.
“It is a more experienced youthful group,” stated head coach Jerry Rickrode. “We seem to be bigger and stronger this year, which is just part of the maturation process. The nice thing is that we have some newcomers who will help us, but we have enough experience that we don’t necessarily have to rely on them to carry the load. We are going to have veterans on the floor who have been through this before, and as a team we have a very good basketball I.Q.”
The Wilkes backcourt will be anchored by senior Matt Gould. Gould has played in all 72 games during his first three seasons, including all 23 as a starter a season ago when he averaged 9.1 points and 3.3 assists per game. Sophomores Chris Gulla, Guy Fasciana and Tom Wychock are also back. Gulla played in every game as a freshman and contributed 4.8 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists. Fasciana saw action in 11 contests and averaged 1.5 points, while Wychock played in nine games.
A pair of freshmen, Bishop O’Reilly graduate Chris DeRojas and Red Land product Kyle Ruby, will also compete for playing time at the guard position. DeRojas, who was part of two State Championship teams at Bishop O’Reilly, averaged 17 points and 4.7 assists for the Queensmen as a senior. Ruby helped Red Land qualify for the PIAA Class AAAA State Tournament as a senior and set a new school record with 76 three-point field goals on his way to being named to the Harrisburg Patriot-News Big 15 Team.
“Our guard play will be stronger this season,” said Rickrode. “I think that we can play at a quicker pace, but we definitely have the ability to also grind it out. We are more of a two-tempo team that will make us more versatile. Because of our guard play we are going to be able to put a more conventional lineup on the floor with two guards, two forwards and a center.”
Sophomore Tom Kresge returns at the small forward position after enjoying a solid freshman campaign. Kresge was the Freedom Conference Rookie of the Year a season ago after averaging 14.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.6 assists per contest. Freshman Josh Pstrak, who averaged 17.8 points per game at Hanover Area High School last year, will also push for playing time.
Junior Steve Kline and sophomore Anthony Gabriel return at the power forward spot. Kline started all 23 games last season and averaged 10.8 points, 6.4 boards and 2.7 assists. Gabriel started seven of the 23 games he played in and tossed in 8.8 points and 3.7 rebounds. Sophomore Matt Smyth also returns after playing in six contests as a rookie.
Juniors John Defeo and Andrew Durako will man the center position for the Colonels during the season. Defeo, who joined the team last January after transferring from Muhlenberg College, saw action in 14 games and averaged 1.3 points and 1.3 rebounds. Durako played in nine games and chipped in with 0.8 points and one rebound per tilt. Freshman Chris Hopkins is also expected to push for floor time.
“I feel that rebounding is going to be a strong suit for us,” added Rickrode. “We have done a great job at the forward and center positions in both practice and our scrimmages, and our guards are tough and will stick their noses in. This team has a conceptual knowledge of how to play man-to-man defense and they communicate very well, which is a big key.”
The Freedom Conference has undergone some changes since last season with the departure of the University of Scranton, Lycoming College and Drew University, and the addition of Manhattanville College and Arcadia University. With those changes comes a schedule that is distinctly different from years past.
“We have a lot of new teams on our schedule this season. It is sad to lose some of our traditional rivals like Scranton and Lycoming, but we are adding some quality teams to the mix. Last season Manhattanville was one of the top-ranked teams in their region and went to the NCAA Tournament after winning the Skyline Conference, and Arcadia features a very athletic group of players. We are looking forward to the challenges that are ahead.”