Former Ace Marc Burch nominated for MLS Goal of the Week

As a defender in the MLS, former University of Evansville standout Marc Burch doesn’t get many opportunities to score goals.

But last Wednesday, the 30-year-old Burch found the net in spectacular fashion — stinging a free kick off the bottom of the crossbar and in. The goal was one of five nominated for the MLS AT&T Goal of the Week.

Here is a video of all the nominees (Burch’s segment begins at 1:08). Burch played at UE from 2002-04 before transferring to Maryland for one season.

Left-handed pitcher commits to Evansville

Alex Weigand, a left-handed pitcher from Bradley-Bourbonnais (Illinois) Community High School, announced his commitment to the University of Evansville Saturday on Twitter.

The class of 2015 prospect went 6-2 with a 1.22 earned-run average as a junior this spring. He is listed at 6-foot-2 and — according to this scouting report from Prep Baseball Report — possesses a fastball in the 83-87 mph range and a “highly advanced” curveball with a “12/6 shape” and “late, sharp, biting action.”

Former UE guard Ned Cox awaiting overseas offers

Ned Cox

Ned Cox

After a successful professional basketball debut, Ned Cox is playing the waiting game.

The former University of Evansville guard averaged 17.3 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 2013-14 for a team in the Brazilian Premiere League.

This summer, Cox is staying in shape as his agent shops his talents around the globe. Cox said he’d like to pursue opportunities in Germany, Greece, Turkey or Hungary, but is waiting on the offers to come in.

The 6-foot-1 Cox — who scored 10.8 points per game for the Aces during the 2012-13 season — believes his performance in Brazil proved his worth to other pro teams.

“As far as basketball-wise, I had to be a playmaker for my team and step up a little bit more than I had to at UE,” the San Antonio native said. “It helped me grow up as a person and a basketball player.”

Cox said he enjoyed getting outside of the U.S. and traveling to different beaches and cities in Brazil. But he also hopes his hard work eventually lands him back in the States.

“Hopefully I keep continuing to improve myself and continuing to have good seasons,” Cox said. “Hopefully I get a shot to get in an NBA Summer League and give myself a shot at going that route.”

 

 

Former UE batterymates meet in minors

Kyle Pollock and Kyle Freeland — catcher and ace pitcher, respectively, on the University of Evansville’s 2014 baseball team — squared off for the first time as pros Thursday night.

Freeland started on the mound for the Grand Junction (Colorado) Rockies while Pollock was behind the plate and batting fifth for the Idaho Falls Chukars, a Rookie League affiliate of the Kansas City Royals.

Both players took something positive from the experience. Freeland tossed five scoreless innings, allowing three hits and one walk while striking out five. The left-hander left the game with a 4-0 lead and improved his ERA to 1.56.

Pollock recorded one of the Chukars’ three hits against his former teammate. He finished 1-for-2 against Freeland with a groundout in the second inning and a single to right field in the fourth. Pollock’s season batting average is at .299 through those at-bats.

Shy Ely signs with top-tier French club

Former University of Evansville guard Shy Ely has signed a contract with Le Mans Sarthe, a first-tier professional club in France.

In case you want to brush up on your French, or see a photo of Ely in his Evansville heyday, here is a tweet with a French press release announcing the deal:

Ely averaged more than 20 points last season for a team in Heidelberg, Germany, that competed in Germany’s second division. The 6-foot-4 Ely has also played in the NBA Development League and for a team in the top Swiss League.

Ely averaged 18.9 points and 5.8 rebounds as a senior for the Aces in the 2008-09 season.

UE showing interest in Lithuanian power forward, but no scholarship offer

Dainius Chatkevicius — who was referred to as “an Evansville commit” earlier this month by ESPN recruiting analyst Reggie Rankin — has not committed to the University of Evansville men’s basketball program. In fact, the Aces haven’t even offered the class of 2015 prospect a scholarship, a representative of the athletic department said Tuesday.

The Aces are continuing to track the 6-foot-9, 245-pound power forward, but the lone scholarship expected to become available after this season is unfilled.

(Full disclosure: I used Rankin’s tweet for this blog post, in which I introduced the big man to readers, pointed out there was no other link between Chatkevicius and Evansville and tried to dig up some tidbits about him.)

Chatkevicius averaged eight points and nine rebounds last season for West Oaks Academy, a private school in Orlando, Florida, that attracts loads of Division I prospects.

West Oaks’ 2014 graduating class contained men’s basketball players headed to Louisville, New Mexico State, Texas A & M, UC Irvine and South Alabama, coach Shaun Wiseman said.

Chatkevicius’ role on that stacked squad was to rebound and hold down the middle of the lane on defense.

“He’s tough, he’s rugged, he’s physical,” Wiseman said. “He’s not afraid to put his body on people.”

Chatkevicius became interested in UE when a Lithuanian coach recommended the school to him. He said he hasn’t visited campus, but hopes to sometime this season.

“I watched a few (Evansville) games online last year and that’s it,” said Chatkevicius, who came to the U.S. last September and has been in communication with Evansville assistant Geoff Alexander.

Chatkevicius said he hopes to improve his shooting, footwork and agility in his final prep season. Wiseman expects the big man to accept a larger offensive role.

“He’s gonna do most of his work 10 feet and in but if he needs to step out, he can take a jump shot every now and then,” Wiseman said. “He can pick and pop and do some stuff as he keeps developing.”

Updates on Kyle Freeland, Mislav Brzoja and a UE men’s basketball target

Some news and notes regarding University of Evansville athletics:

— Former UE left-hander and 2014 MLB first-round draft pick Kyle Freeland made his second professional start Monday night for the Grand Junction (Colorado) Rockies, Colorado’s Rookie League affiliate.

Freeland tossed three innings, allowing four hits and one earned run while striking out two. In his first appearance, Freeland pitched two scoreless innings, so his ERA is currently a solid 1.80.

Mislav Brzoja, a 6-4 guard who has three season of eligibility remaining with the Aces beginning with 2014-15, is midway through the European Championships playing for Croatia’s U20 national team.

Through five games in which Croatia has gone 2-3, the Villanova transfer is averaging 30 minutes, 9.8 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists. Brzoja is also tied for the team high with 3.4 turnovers per game.

Although Brzoja is not currently working out on campus like many of his UE teammates, playing in a structured environment (and for 30 minutes per game) against quality competition is a productive use of his summer. And Aces fans probably like those rebounding numbers considering UE finished second-to-last in rebounding margin last year in the Missouri Valley Conference (minus-2.1).

The U20 European Championships are being held in Crete, Greece.

— This tweet from Wednesday lists Evansville among four Division I schools that have offered scholarships to Class of 2015 forward Dean Wade.

The 6-foot-8 Wade averaged 22.1 points, 8.1 rebounds and 3.7 blocks during his junior season for St. John (Kansas) High School. His team finished 26-0 and won the Class 2A state title.

Here is a video of Wade dunking in the state championship game that is pretty entertaining for three reasons: 1) it’s a nice move; 2) the commentator cackles like a madman; and 3) Wade gets knocked over awkwardly by the guy taking the ball out of bounds.

Wade is listed as a three-star prospect by Rivals.com.

ESPN analyst lauds UE men’s basketball commit’s physical play

On Thursday night, ESPN recruiting analyst Reggie Rankin tweeted about 6-foot-9 class of 2015 power forward Dainius Chatkevicius, linking him to Evansville and lauding his physical play and willingness to do the dirty work to help his team.

This is the first I’ve heard of Chatkevicius; in fact, if you Google “Chatkevicius Evansville,” you won’t find anything other than the tweet that links the 245-pound forward to UE.

While it’s often tough to find much on European players — Chatkevicius is from Lithuania — I was able to dig up a few tidbits about him.

  • The 19-year-old (born July 9, 1995) played sparingly on his country’s U18 national team last year during the European Championships. He averaged 10.6 minutes in nine games, recording 2.3 points and 1.3 rebounds per contest. He had a high of six points in a 74-70 win over Serbia.
  • He plays high school ball in the States at West Oaks Academy in Orlando, Florida, and with a respected AAU program in Florida Elite.

 

The recruitment of Chatkevicius continues UE head coach Marty Simmons’ trend of going after European players, and Lithuanians in particular. Starting big man Egidijus Mockevicius is from Lithuania, and so is Rokas Cesnulevicius — who was granted a medical exemption this spring due to injury. Cesnulevicius will no longer play for the Aces but retained his scholarship and will remain with the team in an off-the-court capacity.

Another European, 6-4 Mislav Brzoja from Croatia, is expected to contribute this year after sitting out last season following his transfer from Villanova. Sergej Vucetic, a 7-foot-1 center from Serbia, will sit out this season after transferring from Nebraska.

Freeland throws two scoreless innings in pro debut

Kyle Freeland’s much-hyped professional debut was short-lived, but the two innings he did pitch were characteristic of his stellar performance at the University of Evansville.

The Colorado Rockies’ 2014 first-round draft choice made his professional debut Wednesday night with Colorado’s Rookie League affiliate — the Grand Junction (Colorado) Rockies — and threw two shutout innings while hurling 15 of his 17 pitches for strikes.

Freeland struck out two batters, allowed three hits and touched 96 mph on the radar gun, according to this tweet from a Grand Junction sportswriter.

Freeland was the 2014 Missouri Valley Conference Pitcher of the Year after going 10-2 with a 1.90 ERA during his junior season. He ranked in the top five in Division I in strikeouts (128), strikeouts per nine innings (11.56) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (10.67). The Rockies selected him eighth overall in the 2014 MLB First-Year Player Draft, then signed him to a contract with a $2.3 million signing bonus.

Simmons discusses personnel, areas to improve

During Marty Simmons’ segment of the Missouri Valley Conference men’s basketball coaches’ conference call Tuesday, the University of Evansville head coach discussed some of his players and key areas he’d like to see the Aces improve this season.

Full audio for the entire conference call can be found here. Below are the highlights from Simmons’ segment:

On shooting guard D.J. Balentine, the MVC’s leading scorer last season, and Balentine’s continued improvement: “He certainly had an outstanding season for us, but I think he’s a real driven young man (and) wants to get better defensively, rebounding. He did a terrific job of getting to the free-throw line. Just the overall leadership, he’s not on the floor as vocal as he his off the floor, but he’s just taking the role as more of a leader.”

On Mislav Brzoja, a 6-foot-4 Villanova transfer who will be eligible to play this season after sitting out the 2013-14 campagin. Brzoja is currently in Croatia playing for his country’s U-20 national team: “He’s really a good all-around player, a good versatile player, can play anywhere from 1-4, shoots the 3, good passer; a strong, athletic kid who has a lot of experience.”

On Willie Wiley, a 6-7 junior-college transfer from Vincennes University: “We have not been a good offensive rebounding team and he adds to that with his length. He’s got good hands and he comes from a program that’s had a lot of success. … He’s a terrific kid and someone who wants to be really good. I think he’s gonna bring a different dimension to our basketball team.”

On Taylor Stafford, a combo guard who transferred from Eastern Arizona College: “He can shoot the 3 off the catch, off the dribble. He’s really quick, really athletic, someone that has a terrific attitude and wants to be good.”

On trying to develop leaders on last season’s young team, and continuing that process this year: “We certainly tried to cultivate it. We have a small group of young men that we meet with weekly, just talking about it and encouraging it in different ways, but certainly addressing it. It’s not an easy thing. We probably don’t have any natural leaders; we’ve got a lot of guys that certainly can lead by example, but (not) the voiceful, emotional type of leader that I think’s important for teams to have. We’ll continue to work on that, but I think somebody will certainly come forward.”

On what Simmons would like to see the Aces improve from last season, when they finished 14-19:  “We’ve just gotta have a better mentality; we’ve gotta be harder-nosed, and that includes rebounding. That starts with the head coach, down through the staff and to the players. We’ve gotta be harder to score against.”

“Offensively, just being a more consistent shooting basketball team. I think at times, we shot the ball very well. Other times we didn’t. We’ve worked really hard here in the offseason. Guys are getting tons of shots up. I think that’s an area that will be better for us than in the past.”

“Being stronger with the basketball, not turning it over.”

Aces release strong men’s soccer schedule

The University of Evansville men’s soccer program released an ambitious 2014 schedule on Wednesday, highlighted by nonconference home matches in October against Indiana University and the University of Kentucky.

The Aces will play five matches against teams that participated in last year’s NCAA tournament, three against teams that finished in the top 50 of the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) and nine against teams that finished in the top 100 of the RPI.

“We always pride ourselves in looking to test our team against the top teams in the nation, and we believe our 2014 schedule will do so,” head coach Mike Jacobs said in a press release.

Evansville will host Division II Bellarmine on Aug. 18 in its first exhibition match. The Aces will also play Cincinnati and Indianapolis in preseason matchups at Arad McCutchan Stadium.

Here are all the Aces’ home matches this season:

Fri., Sept. 5                 vs. Belmont

Sun., Sept. 7               vs. Lipscomb

Fri., Sept. 19               vs. Mercer

Sun., Sept. 21             vs. Marshall

Mon., Sept. 29           vs. SIU Edwardsville

Sat., Oct. 4                  vs. Central Arkansas

Wed., Oct. 15              vs. Kentucky

Wed., Oct. 29              vs. Indiana

Sat., Nov. 1                 vs. Loyola

 

 

 

A chat with Marty Simmons

I met University of Evansville men’s basketball coach Marty Simmons Thursday, and it didn’t take long for us to start chatting about next season.

The discussion centered around the Aces’ junior college transfers — 6-foot-1 combo guard Taylor Stafford and 6-7 power forward Willie Wiley — but Simmons also touched on other topics, including how star guard D.J. Balentine informed him that 6-10 center Egidijus Mockevicius has been drilling 3-pointers in workouts. Simmons laughed when he said this, so don’t expect Mackevicius to abandon the low post and start hoisting treys this season.

Anyway, here is what Simmons had to say:

On Wiley: “He’s long and he’s got shot-blocking ability. The neat thing is he has the ability to step out and make perimeter jump shots, but we think one of his greatest assets is the glass. He’s got big hands, he’s long and he’s athletic. He’ll not only help us on the defensive glass, but give us something that we’ve lacked in an offensive rebounding threat.”

On Stafford: “He’s kind of an Energizer bunny. He’s got a high motor and he loves basketball. He can score. He’s a good shooter, elevates on his jumper.”

We talked about how UE brings back everyone who contributed at the end of last season (Ryan Sawvell was a key piece before transferring mid-season), and where the transfers would fit in.

Simmons: “When you have a bunch of guys back, it’s always interesting to see how the new guys (fit). They both have good personalities and are both big team guys. I think they both bring some qualities that maybe we didn’t have.”

“I just think from a depth standpoint, going into it, this is our best group. We feel like we’ve got a lot of versatility, a lot of flexibility. We can play big, we can play small, we’ve got some athletic teams we can put out there, got some guys that can shoot the ball. The neat part’s gonna be the competition — we’re going to have more competition in practice every day than I think we’ve ever had here.”

The players are lifting weights and conditioning this summer in addition to the allotted two hours of individual instruction per week with the coaching staff.