Coach Michael Huger knows there is a learning curve. Reaching the MAC semi-finals, and winning their opening round game in the CIT validated his belief that things are going to improve over the 5-13 conference record last year. The growing pains are going away, optimistically sooner rather than later. Not only do the older guys now have a better grasp of his system, there is the added benefit that they can help teach the new blood.
Pressed for a starting lineup at the media day, he said that it’s still an open competition. Competition is a word he used frequently. Ismail Ali at the 1, Zack Denny at the 2, Antwon Lillard at the 3, Wes Alcegaire at the 4 and Demajeo Wiggins at the 5 started over the summer. That is likely going to change over the course of the year, and probably before the first tip-off. One thing is for certain. The Falcons are shorter than any team in the MAC.
I am old enough to remember when “they” said you needed a good big to win a championship. That’s been proven incorrect time and again over the last 20 or so years, but it’s still in the back of my head. As I was watched Coach Huger give his media day interviews, I wanted to believe his optimism for the season. I just couldn’t figure out how he was going to do it. Now I know just because I, the overweight, and by most accounts, kinda dumb sports reporter couldn’t figure it out, it doesn’t mean there isn’t a solution. So I decided to ask Coach Huger his.
The team has 10 guards and 3 forwards. The team added 5 new players, 4 guards and one forward. Is that a trend that will continue?
"Our style of play is an up-tempo style. We play a lot of guards, and we are a guard-heavy team because of our pick-and-roll offense. It is a trend that we have now, and it's the situation that we are in. With recruiting going forward, we will have bigger guys coming in, along with guards. You need both. You need a combination of both. It's hard to play with eight big men. It's easier to play with eight guards than it is with eight big men." -- Coach Huger
BGSU has the least amount of players over 6’7” in the MAC. How will you compensate for that, and is it a problem?
"I don't think it is a problem at this point. It's not about compensating -- it's about rebounding. And that's the thing, we have to be able to defend and rebound. It doesn't matter how tall you are if you can defend and rebound. That is all that really matters, and I think our guards can defend and rebound, and I think we'll be fine. Height has never been a big factor in doing that. If you look at the NBA Finals last year, LeBron played the five at times. He played a little bit at the five, and he played at the four. That is what the NBA is turning into, and that is the style that I like. And we will also have big guys that will be able to put in on the floor, and shoot threes." -- Coach Huger
Coach Anthony Stacey deals primarily with the post players, and I was interested in his take on it, too.
You only have three guys over 6’8”. Does that make your job easier, or harder?
"I don't think it makes it easier, or harder. With our post guys, we just try to develop them. We try to get them to do what they do very well, and make sure that they do it all the time. We try to work on their weaknesses as much as possible, also. For right now, with the weaknesses, we try to not put them in that position where they have to do those things as much. But most importantly for us, we have to develop them, get them in great shape, and also add muscle to them. As you can see, Demajeo(Wiggins) has gotten much bigger, and Rasheed(Worrell) has gotten much bigger. Jeff(Uju) has gotten much bigger. Wes(Alcegaire) is playing the post this year, and I think he's added some weight, too. I think it's just really important for us to develop them. We want to get them to play hard, and just teach them, and hopefully get better everyday." -- Coach Stacey
I have watched a lot of basketball, and heard a million interviews. I know how to read beyond coach speak. Both guys exude confidence in their answers. They have a mission, and they believe. The Cavs won a championship. The Indians are playing the freaking Cubs in the World Series. If there was ever a year to believe, it would be this year.
Enough about the x’s and the o’s, here are the Jimmys and the Joes. The Falcons return 3 starters. Zach Denny (10.6 points, 6.1 rebounds), Wes Alcegaire (10.2 points, 3.3 rebounds), and Rasheed Worell (7.1 points, 4.6 rebounds.) Along with those three, Antwon Lillard, Ismail Ali, Damajeo Wiggins, Matt Fox, Malik Hluchowecyj, and Garrett Mayleben are the returning letter winners. Dylan Frye is a new guy from Pemproke Pines, Florida. He was a 3-time Miami-Dade All-County team selections, and class 7A(the second largest class in Florida) All State second team in his final year. The coaches are excited about what this kid brings, and frankly, so am I. Another big recruit, Justin Turner, was ranked 10th overall in the state of Michigan for the 2016 class by Bank Hoops. Jeffrey Uju is a Juco transfer and is the one post player they added this season. Uju is from the legendary Oak Hill Academy in Virginia. Ethan Good and Rodrick Cadwell, both Ohio natives, join the team, as well.
As I wrap up this preview, I was thinking more about Lebron playing the 5. We all know what kind of freak athlete Lebron is, and it’s safe to say there is no Lebron on the team. Or anywhere else in the world. But this old guy remembered another NBA championship. In 1980, Magic Johnson was playing in his rookie season for the Lakers. He was no where near the athlete Lebron is, but a fantastic basketball player. His job description was “point guard” and he became one of the best ever. The Lakers lost another all time great, Kareem Abul-Jabbar, to a sprained ankle for game 6 of the NBA finals. Coach Paul Westhead called on his starting point guard, Magic, to switch to center for the game. 42 points, 15 rebounds and 7 assists. And, more importantly, his first NBA championship. Maybe size doesn’t matter.
If you are a BGSU Falcon basketball fan, it’s ok to believe. I do, too.