KALAMAZOO -- Western Michigan University basketball coach Steve Hawkins was mostly pleased after his Broncos had dispatched the little liberal arts college across the railroad tracks by a score of 88-59 in the first of two exhibition games to start the season.
"These games are necessary particularly for the new kids," said Hawkins. " For many of these kids, it was their first time on the floor other than a practice. There is a shoot around, a pre-game meal, warm ups, etc. that are all part of game preparation and these are like dress rehearsals."
This was evident when one of the newbies, starting his first game as a Bronco, Tucker Haymond, was over seeking a handshake from K-College coach Eric Dougal, as the rest of the starters were out chest bumping as they were introduced. "That's what we did in high school," said a sheepish Haymond afterward.
The true freshman's game appears to be all Division I college as he was 3-5 from behind the arc and tallied 11 points, one of five Broncos to reach double figures.
Senior's David Brown and Shayne Whittington tallied 15 and 12 respectively for the Broncos while junior point guard Austin Ritchie tossed in 11 points and recorded five assists in a team high 23 minutes of play. Sophomore guard Jared Klein was the fifth Bronco in double figures with 12. In all, 11 Broncos were on the floor double digit minutes.
"This is a good time for us to experiment with different combinations of players to see what we have before we go live next Friday in Hawaii," said Hawkins. "We feel, and I believe that is one of our trademarks, we have depth, to be able to run in fresh bodies without having a significant fall off in ability on the floor. We have Shayne at 6-11 and pretty much everyone else is between 6-3 and 6-8. Each of those kids have got to be prepared to play multiple positions at any given time."
"We will probably have a pretty set group that starts the game for us, but that means nothing to me," said Hawkins. "It's about the five guys that I have on the floor at the end of a tight game that will tell you which kids I trust to do the right things. David Brown never started a game for us last year but he was on the floor at the end of all of them."
The Broncos out rebounded the much smaller Hornets 41-24, led by sophomore AJ Avery's 10 boards in just 15 minutes. "He's long and athletic" said Hawkins of Avery. "We are really counting on AJ to help Shayne and Connor (Tava) on the boards this season."
K-College was led by senior pre-season Division III All-American candidate Mark Ghafari's 17 points. "I was really proud of the effort by our kids," said Hornet's coach Dougal. "They have only been practicing 10 days and they played their butts off, but Western has so many weapons."
Western plays it's second and final exhibition game Monday at University Arena versus Acquinas at 7pm. Then its off to the Aloha State to get this party started.