Posted by & filed under Baseball.

The University of Evansville announced on Tuesday the summer-league baseball assignments of 11 of its returning players. Here is where the Aces are heading:

PLAYER TEAM LEAGUE
RHP Ryan Brady Dodgers St. Louis Metro
RHP Nicholas Eggemeyer Hoptown Hoppers Ohio Valley
RHP Brian Jestice NW Indiana Oilmen Midwest Collegiate
RHP Brent Jurceka Waterloo Bucks Northwoods
C Billy Lipari Lima Locos Great Lakes
INF Stewart Nelson Sedalia Bombers MINK
1B Eric McKibban Terre Haute Rex Prospects
INF Jonathan Ramon Sedalia Bombers MINK
RHP Patrick Schnieders Anchorage Glacier Pilots Alaska
C Travis Tokarek Sedalia Bombers MINK
RHP Jimmy Ward DuPage County Hounds Midwest Collegiate

 

Most of these leagues have solid websites for those interested in tracking the statistics of particular players.

Posted by & filed under Baseball.

Nearly two months into the minor-league baseball season, here is how several former University of Evansville players are faring:

— Left-handed pitcher Kyle Freeland, the No. 8 overall pick to the Colorado Rockies in 2014, hasn’t pitched in a game this season as he is rehabilitating from shoulder fatigue. Freeland recorded a 3-0 record and 1.15 ERA in a short minor league stint last season.

Rockies senior director of player development Zach Wilson told the Denver Post last week Freeland’s injury was nothing serious and that the Denver native needed minor surgery to have bone chips removed from his arm.

“He’s doing very well. He’s making strides every day,” Wilson told the Post. “He’s steadily improving. Nothing got worse. It wasn’t a major issue, we just want to make sure he gets right.”

— In his second season with the Double-A Arkansas Travelers, 23-year-old shortstop Eric Stamets has shown some quality hitting to go with his slick fielding. The No. 22-ranked prospect in the Los Angeles Angels’ system, Stamets has only played in 17 games this season due to injury but it batting .295 with a home run and eight RBIs. As this Orange County Register story notes, the Travelers won the first 11 games in which Stamets played all nine innings. This article details Stamets’ rehab from the shoulder injury that sidelined him earlier this season.

— Right-handed reliever Sam Johns, a 31st-round draft pick of the Washington Nationals last year, has a solid 3.66 ERA in 13 appearances this spring with the Single-A Hagerstown (Pa.) Suns. He has one save in two opportunities and has allowed 20 hits and eight earned runs in 19 2/3 innings. Johns has struck out 11 batters and walked six.

— Catcher Kyle Pollock batted .214 in 22 games with the Lexington (Ky.) Legends, a Single-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals. Pollock struck out once every 3.4 at-bats before being demoted to the Royals’ Rookie team in the Arizona League. The 22-year-old was selected in the 20th round of the 2014 MLB draft.

— Starting pitcher Kyle Lloyd is 2-3 with a 4.28 ERA in seven starts with the Lake Elsinore Storm, a High-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres. He has struck out 46 and walked 14 in 48 1/3 innings, and opponents are batting .245 against him.

Posted by & filed under Men's Basketball, Missouri Valley.

 

 

The MVC spring update is compiled from conference beat writers:

Bradley (9-24, 3-15 MVC)

1. What was the team’s major off-season issue that needed addressing?

Bradley’s needs were numerous after a 9-24 season. I don’t know that anyone could have predicted the massive overhaul that has taken place, starting with a new coaching staff headed by Brian Wardle, a 35-year-old Illinoisan who had good success in a five-year head coaching run at Green Bay, winning 49 games the past two seasons. Wardle’s first meeting with Geno Ford’s team that had a dozen players returning, but eight of whom were seniors-to-be, resulted in six of them asking for their release. Two more would follow in the coming weeks, leaving just four holdover players — guards Ka’Darryl Bell (6.1 ppg, 2.1 apg) and Warren Jones (11.9 ppg in 21 games), forward Donte Thomas (2.5 ppg, 2.5 rpg) and center Mike Shaw (1.9 ppg, 3.4 rpg).

2. Who was added to the roster for 2015-16 and how will the newcomers help?

In less than two months on the job, Wardle has added eight scholarship players and a local walk-on. All are incoming freshmen except 6-7 Alex Foster, a native Chicagoan who’s transferring from Texas Tech, where he played little.

The freshmen include 6-10 Davante Cooper of Atlanta, 6-8 Luuk van Bree of The Netherlands, 6-7 Scottie James of Tarpon Springs, Fla., 6-6 Ronnie Suggs of Washington, Mo., 6-6 walk-on Peter Hanley of Peoria, 6-3 Antoine Pittman of Rockford, 6-3 Dwayne Lautier-Ogunleye of London, England and 5-11 Joel Okafor of Richmond, Ind.

Two guard Pittman and point guard Okafor were Wardle recruits to Green Bay and will likely be immediate contributors as will combo guard Ogunleye and swingman Suggs. Because of the lack of bigs in the program, Cooper, van Bree and James will certainly get a shot, too.

It’s really hard to gauge who will be the most impactful at this point. But with seven scholarship freshmen, some of them will have to be important pieces from Day One.

3. Important departures?

The most important departures were 6-7 freshman forward Josh Cunningham, second in the Valley in rebounding (7.5 as well as 7.9 ppg) and 5-11 point guard Tramique Sutherland (11.3 ppg, 3.0 apg). The others who left are 6-4 guard Omari Grier (7.9 ppg), 6-9 center Xzavier Taylor (2.8 ppg, 1.8 rpg), 6-8 F-C Jermaine Morgan (2.5 ppg, 2.7 rpg), 6-1 PG Anthony Fields (1.3 ppg), 7-1 C Nate Wells (3.0 ppg, 1.5 rpg) and 6-2 G Kendahl Amerson (academically ineligible last season as junior college transfer, 2 years left). Wells is headed to Ball State as a grad transfer. Fields and Grier are also grad transfers with no school as of yet.

The only graduate was 6-8 F Auston Barnes (9.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg).

4. Is this team an MVC contender? Middle of the pack? Thursday contender?

As a rebuilding, freshman-dominant squad, the Braves are destined for a sixth consecutive Thursday night appearance at St. Louis. I can’t imagine a scenario in which Bradley finishes ahead of four Valley teams in the standings. The four returnees are role players at best although Thomas showed late promise and could make a big jump with lots of playing time available.

5. What games highlight the non-conference schedule?

The non-conference schedule is still being put together. What is official is more than challenging for this young team. At Boise State in the MWC Challenge, at Arizona, at UT-Arlington and at the Charleston Classic, a loaded field that includes Virginia, Ole Miss, Seton Hall, Oklahoma State, Long Beach State and George Mason.

 — Dave Reynolds, Peoria Journal-Star  

Drake (9-22, 6-12 MVC)

1. What was the team’s major off-season issue that needed addressing?

Size and experience. The Bulldogs relied a lot on young guys last season, and it will be the same in 2015-16. One positive is the development of point guard Reed Timmer. He logged a lot of minutes as a freshman, and that should start to pay off next fall.

2. Who was added to the roster for 2015-16 and how will the newcomers help?

You’ll hear some buzz on Dominik Olejniczak, a 7-foot player from Poland. He could give Drake some sort of presence in the post. Also, shooting guard Billy Wampler could see significant minutes. He may not be on Timmer’s level, though.

3. Important departures?

Drake will miss Karl Madison, Gary Ricks Jr. and Jordan Daniels, but it’s still pretty loaded at the guard spot.

4. Is this team an MVC contender? Middle of the pack? Thursday contender?

Avoiding the play-in game at the Valley tournament would be a nice sign of progress. Coach Ray Giacoletti has some pieces in place, but they’re at least another year away from making real noise in the Valley. So middle of the pack would be a big step up.

5. What games highlight the non-conference schedule?

The non-conference schedule has not been set, yet. But there will be a matchup with Iowa. They’ll also play Nevada in the Valley-MWC challenge on Dec. 2. The Bulldogs should also host DePaul, but no date is set.

 — Andrew Logue, Des Moines Register

Evansville (24-12, 9-9 MVC)

1. What was the team’s major off-season issue that needed addressing?

Bringing back all-conference center Egidijus Mockevicius for his senior season was the Aces’ primary concern. With Mockevicius earning a bachelor’s degree this spring, there was speculation around here that the 6-foot-10 Lithuanian would either play pro ball overseas or use the NCAA’s graduate transfer rule to move to a bigger program.

Mockevicius did consider pro ball for a while but recently settled on finishing his eligibility at UE while pursuing a second bachelor’s degree. He averaged 12.5 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game last season.

2. Who was added to the roster for 2015-16 and how will the newcomers help?

The Aces have added one incoming freshman so far in 5-foot-11 combo guard Harris Brown out of Indianapolis Howe High School. He could give Evansville a different look in the backcourt because unlike the Aces’ current point guards (Duane Gibson and Jaylon Brown) he is an accomplished scorer and consistent outside shooting threat. Brown scored 50 and 51 points in back-to-back games in high school and averaged about 30 points per game in his senior season.

Also available for the 2015-16 season will be 6-7 power forward Willie Wiley and 7-1 center Sergej Vucetic, both of whom sat out last season after transferring from other programs. Vucetic played minimally at Nebraska before coming to Evansville and I expect him to only play spot minutes next season while backing up Mockevicius.

A transfer from Vincennes University, Wiley is a more intriguing addition because he gives the Aces a traditional power forward who could play alongside Mockevicius in big lineups. Last season, Evansville used its bigger guards — 6-4 Adam Wing and 6-6 Mislav Brzoja — to defend opposing power forwards. Like Harris Brown, Wiley faces the challenge of cracking a crowded, established rotation.

Evansville has one scholarship remaining for the 2015-16 season.

3. Important departures?

Evansville loses two role players from last season — 6-7 power forward Jaylon Moore (4.1 ppg, 1.7 rpg) and seldom-used guard Taylor Stafford. Moore graduated and Stafford is transferring.

Assistants Jimmy Elgas and Carson Harris left for head coaching jobs, Elgas at Division II Henderson State and Harris at NAIA Marian University.

Lennox Forrester (former SIUE head coach) and Doug Novsek (most recently associate head coach at Nevada) will fill the vacancies. Forrester and current UE head coach Marty Simmons were assistants under Jim Crews and Novsek played high school ball with Simmons.

4. Is this team an MVC contender? Middle of the pack? Thursday contender?

This will likely be the best team in coach Marty Simmons’ nine-year tenure and should be an MVC contender. Wichita State is the clear favorite, but the Aces have the talent to finish second or third in the conference.

5. What games highlight the non-conference schedule?

The Wooden Legacy tournament during Thanksgiving week will test the Aces regardless of how the bracket plays out. The field features five 2015 NCAA Tournament teams in Michigan State, Arizona, Boise State, Providence and UC Irvine. Also in the field are Evansville, Boston College and Santa Clara. UE will also host Belmont and play at Fresno State in the MVC-MW Challenge.

 — Daniel Allar, Evansville Courier & Press

Illinois State (22-13, 11-7 MVC)

1. What was the team’s major off-season issue that needed addressing?

After Reggie Lynch decided to transfer back to his beloved Minnesota, the Redbirds needed to find another body in the middle. ISU will have Nick Banyard, a 6-8 transfer from New Mexico who sat out last season, and 6-11 freshman recruit Dauoda “David” Ndiaye from Senegal via Windermere Prep in Florida. But they needed someone more seasoned and added 6-8 Quintin Brewer, a graduate transfer who averaged 9.2 points and 7.0 rebounds last season at Bethune-Cookman. ISU won’t have anyone with the bulk of Lynch or graduated John Jones in the post next season. This could be a problem. Expect to see the Redbirds play more zone than man defense in 2015-16.

2. Who was added to the roster for 2015-16 and how will the newcomers help?

Besides Brewer, ISU added 6-8, 215-pound Elvis Harvey from Oxbridge Academy in West Palm Beach, Fla. Harvey has only played basketball for three years and appears to be a redshirt candidate. ISU did add four preps in the fall in Ndiaye, his teammate, Matt Hein, a shooting guard; point guard Keyshawn Evans from Plantation, Fla., and 6-6 wing forward Roland Griffin from Aurora, Ill. Evans and Griffin appear to be the two leading contenders for playing time. Evans will backup Paris Lee and can shift to 2 guard to play with Lee, although he is only 6-foot, while Griffin is pretty athletic and figures to play behind MiKyle McIntosh.

3. Important departures?

Lynch might be the most important departure in the league. He was a rim protector and shot blocker. His offensive game was getting better all the time. Lynch had trouble staying out of foul trouble his two years, so ISU has experience playing without him. At least Muller has all summer figuring out how the Redbirds will play in the fall to compensate for Lynch’s loss. ISU also lost forward Will Ransom and guard Mark Hall, but both played little and wouldn’t have made significant contributions in the 2015-16 season.

Coach Dan Muller added Jeremy Ballard as an assistant coach after the death of Torrey Ward in the tragic airplane crash in early April.

4. Is this team an MVC contender? Middle of the pack? Thursday contender?

With Lynch, ISU probably was the No. 2 choice in the league behind Wichita State. Replacing Daishon Knight will be difficult, but DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell figures to step into that role. Akoon-Purcell, Lee, Deonte Hawkins are returning starters along with McIntosh, Tony Wills and Justin McCloud. That probably puts ISU in the 4-5 range behind Shockers, UNI and Evansville.

5. What games highlight the non-conference schedule?

The nonconference schedule will be brutal. The Redbirds open at San Diego State, probably a top-25 team, for the MW-MVC Challenge. They will face Maryland, which many believe will be the preseason No. 1 team in country, in the Cancun Challenge. Then there’s a Dec. 1 date at Kentucky in Rupp Arena. Throw in home games against Alabama-Birmingham and Murray State along with a road game at Saint Joseph’s, and the Redbirds definitely can’t say they won’t be ready for MVC action.

— Jim Benson, The Pantagraph

Indiana State (15-16, 11-7 MVC)

1. What was the team’s major off-season issue that needed addressing?

Indiana State had to fix rebounding, the point guard position and overall toughness. All hurt ISU at its worst moments last season in an up-and-down season.

Off the floor, the Indiana Statehouse approved a measure to renovate Hulman Center. Details (a percentage is covered by local funding) need to be ironed out, but it could be a huge boost.

2. Who was added to the roster for 2015-16 and how will the newcomers help?

Newcomers come in all forms: true freshmen, Jucos, Division I transfers and even returning veterans.

Jucos, who will be expected to help right away include PG Everett Clemens (6-1) and F Niels Buncschoten (6-9). Clemens, who played at Vincennes, is a distributor first. He was a third-team All-American and averaged 9.6 ppg and 6.2 apg at VU.

Bunschoten, a native of the Netherlands, is a stretch forward. Bunschoten converted 45 percent of his 3-pointers at Howard College. In the scope of ISU’s offense, he would approximate what R.J. Mahurin’s role once was.

True freshmen include C Emondre Rickman (6-9) and F Bronson Kessinger (6-8). Rickman is a thin, athletic prospect from Collinsville, Ill.

Kessinger, recruited as Justin Gant’s replacement, broke his leg in a January game in which he was taken out on a dunk attempt. He suffered the same injury as Kevin Ware did for Louisville in the 2013 tournament. Though his recovery is going well, his status is still unknown. He was ISU’s top target for this class and much is anticipated from him once he’s healthy.

A player who should help immediately is Citadel transfer Matt Van Scyoc. A 6-6 forward, Van Scyoc averaged 14.3 ppg and 5.3 ppg in 2014. He made 36.5 percent of his 3-point attempts and converted 80 percent of his free throws. Body-wise, Van Scyoc is similar to one-time Sycamore Matt Renn.

A veteran player ISU didn’t have last season is forward Brandon Burnett. Expected to be ISU’s sixth man, he missed the season after he suffered a foot injury in a car accident. He is a “newcomer” in a sort of sense. In the same vein, so is guard Laquarious Paige, who played three games a year ago before sitting out with various injuries.

3. Important departures?

Forward Alex Etherington and point guard Tre Bennett left the team in a postseason purge of sorts.

Of the two, Bennett was a bigger contributor, averaging 8 ppg and 3 apg. He was on the MVC All-Bench team.

Bennett did not establish rapport with coaches and some teammates and wasn’t a good fit for ISU’s system. He was a last-minute solution when Bryant McIntosh de-committed and went to Northwestern.

In the wake of ISU’s horrific loss to Loyola at Arch Madness, Greg Lansing’s mission was to establish buy-in and rid the roster of anyone who might jeopardize that. As of now, Bennett has not transferred anywhere.

Etherington never clicked as a Division I contributor. He transferred to Division II University of Indianapolis.

4. Is this team an MVC contender? Middle of the pack? Thursday contender? 

Looking back, it’s pretty remarkable that ISU finished third in the MVC given all that plagued it in 2015.

This team should be better, if in no other way than a unified purpose. On paper, it should be better on the boards (it could hardly be worse) and some players (like Devonte Brown) who played out of position should be able to return to duties that enhance their strengths.

ISU needs consistency from Khristian Smith, who was up-and-down last season. It also needs Brenton Scott to build on his Freshman of the Year campaign to improve his defense and decision-making.

ISU is not a threat to unseat WSU, but if all goes well, it can compete with Illinois State, Evansville, Northern Iowa, Loyola, et al, in the top half. Of course, if all goes wrong, the competition will punish any slip-up. High middle-of-the-pack is realistic.

5. What games highlight the non-conference schedule?

Nothing eye-popping, but nothing bad either. ISU plays in the Paradise Jam. It could play a good Tulsa team in the second round if it beats Norfolk State. ISU plays at Butler and hosts Wyoming in the Mountain West Challenge. It also plays at Western Kentucky in December.

ISU plays its usual nearby rivals (Ball State, IUPUI, Eastern Illinois) and has Valpo (at home) back on the schedule for the first time in a decade.

ISU is still trying to fill two more slots. A buy game is not out of the question.

— Todd Golden, Terre Haute Tribune Star 

Loyola (24-13, 8-10 MVC)

1. What was the team’s major off-season issue that needed addressing?

The Ramblers needed to add size. Forwards Montel James (6-7) and Christian Thomas (6-5) had to play out of position and give up several inches in many matchups last season. Thomas, the team’s top rebounder and emotional leader, is gone. Coffeyville Community College transfer Maurice Kirby (6-9) should help. He sat out his freshman season at Virginia Tech and averaged 8 points and 7.9 rebounds at Coffeyville, a program that also produced James and guard Earl Peterson.

2. Who was added to the roster for 2015-16 and how will the newcomers help?

In addition to Kirby, Loyola signed forward Pernell Adgie (6-7) in the spring from Fishburne (Va.) Military School. Guard Tyson Smith (6-2), from the College of Southern Idaho, signed earlier in May. He averaged 10.5 points and has three years of eligibility remaining.

Iowa State guard Clayton Custer transferred to Loyola this spring and will sit out the 2015-16 season. He will have three seasons of eligibility.

3. Important departures?

Thomas averaged 11.2 points and 4.5 rebounds and coach Porter Moser relied on his leadership and toughness. Guard Joe Crisman started 21 games as a senior and 98 in his career.

4. Is this team an MVC contender? Middle of the pack? Thursday contender?

The Ramblers made progress in their second season in the MVC by finishing sixth and playing in the semifinals of the MVC Tournament. Loyola compiled a 16-3 record against non-conference opponents. It won the College Basketball Invitational with wins over Rider, Oral Roberts, Seattle and Louisiana-Monroe. If star guard Milton Doyle is healthy, and with six of the top seven scorers back, Loyola should consider itself capable of pushing for second or third in the MVC.

5. What games highlight the non-conference schedule?

Loyola plays at New Mexico in the Mountain West/Missouri Valley Challenge Series.

— Paul Suellentrop, The Wichita Eagle

 Missouri State (11-19, 5-13)

1. What was the team’s major off-season issue that needed addressing?

Offense and depth. The Bears average only 59.7 points, failing to break 60 in 14 of 18 conference games. Due to departures and injuries, the team had only seven scholarship players available down the stretch. The season ended in fitting fashion, a feckless 55-48 loss to Southern Illinois in the MVC tourney play-in round.

2. Who was added to the roster for 2015-16 and how will the newcomers help?

Coach Paul Lusk went the juco route to seek immediate help. Dequon Miller, a 5-11 guard from Motlow College in Tennessee, is expected to be given the keys to the offense. He averaged 19 points and 9.2 assists as a sophomore. His juco teammate, 6-6 wing Reggie Williams, is coming as a walk-on. Completing the Motlow trifecta is coach Matt Sligh, added to the MSU staff as a new assistant. Guard Kevin Baker from Pensacola College and 6-8, 235-pound post Jordan Martin of John A. Logan College both played high school basketball in St. Louis. Martin originally committed to Southern Illinois out of high school before landing at John A. Logan, where he averaged 7.9 points and 5.1 rebounds as a sophomore.

3. Important departures? 

Marcus Marshall was a well-documented departure in mid-January after a beef with coach Paul Lusk. Marshall averaged 19.5 points in 14 games. He will transfer to Nevada and sit out a year before playing one. Gavin Thurman, a forward who averaged 6 points as a junior, is transferring back home to Wichita to play at DII Kansas Newman. Ron Mvouika missed all but two games last season with a back injury. He is transferring as a graduate student to play his final season at St. John’s. Missouri State gave him a chance to return and pay his own way, not wanting to risk a scholarship because of his iffy health.

4. Is this team an MVC contender? Middle of the pack? Thursday contender?

If the juco players, and Dequon Miller in particular, live up to their billing then this team should be no worse than a middle-of-the-pack bunch. If the jucos don’t make a major difference, this team will be destined for Thursday status at the MVC tourney — and that could leave Lusk’s future as coach much in doubt.

5. What games highlight the non-conference schedule?

Home vs. Tulsa. The Puerto Rico Tip Off tourney is loaded with the Bears joining Butler, Miami (Fla), Minnesota, Mississippi State, Temple, Texas Tech and Utah.

— Lyndal Scranton, Springfield News-Leader

Northern Iowa (31-4, 16-2 MVC)

1. What was the team’s major off-season issue that needed addressing?

UNI needs to find a way to capitalize off its most acclaimed season in school history. Aside from recruiting, this won’t exactly be addressed this off-season — we’ll know more a year or two down the road — but the Panthers missed an opportunity after the Sweet 16 run in 2010. The decommitment of Doug McDermott had something to do with it, but not making another NCAA Tournament until 2020 would be disappointing. Overall, the program is as strong as it’s ever been.

2. Who was added to the roster for 2015-16 and how will the newcomers help?

Incoming freshmen: Justin Dahl, Luke McDonnell, Spencer Haldeman, Lincoln Conrey (walk-on)

Incoming junior: Aarias Austin

UNI is losing its top three front court players, so Dahl and McDonnell can help there. McDonnell is more skilled but will need to gain some weight. Also, sophomore center Ted Friedman is coming off a redshirt season — he started the first few games of his true freshman season in 2013. Haldeman is a combo guard and will most likely redshirt. Austin is a juco transfer and brings some good length and athleticism to the backcourt.

3. Important departures?

Five seniors including MVC Player of the Year Seth Tuttle, who had perhaps the best season of any UNI player ever. Deon Mitchell was a starter at point guard for most of his four years. Marvin Singleton and Nate Buss played their roles in the front court perfectly this past season.

4. Is this team an MVC contender? Middle of the pack? Thursday contender?

MVC contender, depending on whether Wichita State allows anyone else to be. I anticipate the Panthers to be picked second in the preseason poll with several upperclassmen returning.

5. What games highlight the non-conference schedule?

There has been heavy speculation that North Carolina will come to the McLeod Center. Marcus Paige is from Cedar Rapids and Roy Williams has a history of scheduling a “home” game for his players. The fact that it hasn’t been made official yet is somewhat concertning, but if the Tar Heels do come to Cedar Falls, UNI will have a top-15 non-conerence strength of schedule.

Other key games include: home against Stephen F. Austin and Colorado State (MVC-MWC), on the road at New Mexico, neutral against Iowa State (Des Moines) and a solid field at the Diamond Head Classic.

— Carson Tigges, Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier

Southern Illinois (11-21, 4-14 MVC)

1. What was the team’s major off-season issue that needed addressing?

SIU’s off-season problems extended off the court as much as on the court for the upcoming season. Frustrated donors and other fans lost confidence in the program’s overall direction with the 12-21 season, just two losses off the school record despite an incredibly easy schedule. They showed some spirit as the Salukis finished somewhat strong the last eight games and won a game at the MVC tournament, but now are back questioning coach Barry Hinson’s methods after five players departed. Hinson asked four of them to stay, and three of them, forward Jordan Caroline and guards Deion Lavender and Charles “Chaz” Glotta, basically chose to sit out a year rather than return to a team that might have had five returning starters.

The Salukis needed to find a replacement for Caroline’s inside presence, a solid point guard and a scoring presence to take away some of the pressure on Anthony Beane.

2. Who was added to the roster for 2015-16 and how will the newcomers help?

Hinson added a high-scoring junior college point guard and a prep school forward in April and signed Leo Vincent, a sophomore point guard at Harcum (Pa.) College near Philadelphia, on Tuesday. Vincent averaged 15.5 points per game and 4.2 assists per game, and was an honorable mention NJCAA All-American for a 28-4 squad. Mike Rodriguez was the eighth-leading scorer in the NJCAA (22.5 points per game) at Marshalltown (Iowa) Community College, and could help SIU turn around a season when it had just 274 assists and 423 turnovers.

Rudolfs Stradnieks, a 6-9 prep school forward from Lee Academy in Maine, will team with redshirt freshman forward Austin Weiher, another prep school forward, to help the Salukis inside. SIU’s coaches are also high on the other redshirt freshman, 6-4 guard Armon Fletcher, who could help the Salukis’ shooting. He’s got great length on defense but no Division I experience yet. Hinson has two scholarships left for the upcoming season.

3. Important departures?

Caroline was SIU’s leading rebounder (6.2 per game), the team’s second-leading scorer (9.2 points per game) and a member of the MVC All-Freshman Team. Lavender wasn’t a big scorer but played a big role in diverting some defensive attention from Beane. Senior-to-be guard Jalen Pendleton appeared to be the team’s best candidate as an on-court leader, but he decided to go elsewhere in search of guaranteed playing time. SIU’s other departures were seldom-used guards K.C. Goodwin, Glotta and associate head coach Tom Hankins, who accepted the head coaching job at Division II Central Oklahoma near his native Tulsa.

Caroline signed with Nevada, Lavender signed with UAB, and Glotta went to Northern Colorado. Pendleton signed with Division II Minnesota State, and Goodwin signed with Division II Union (Tennessee) University.

4. Is this team an MVC contender? Middle of the pack? Thursday contender?

The Salukis have a lot of question marks, but one of them is not their expected slot in the Thursday night foursome. They will be hard-pressed to avoid it even if Beane and forward Sean O’Brien have first team all-conference seasons.

5. What games highlight the non-conference schedule?

SIU has not announced their multi-team event, and they have a lot of slots to fill still. As of today, SIU-Edwardsville is coming to SIU Arena, as are Kent State, Southeast Missouri State and Air Force through the Mountain West-Missouri Valley Conference Challenge. The road game at Murray State is probably their best opponent right now, but they are looking at a buy game and should have at least one BCS team in their MTE.

— Todd Hefferman, The Southern Illinoisan

Wichita State (30-5, 17-1 MVC)

1. What was the team’s major off-season issue that needed addressing?

The Shockers needed to add a big man to the rotation to replace Darius Carter. Returning big men such as Shaq Morris, Bush Wamukota and Rashard Kelly had good moments, but aren’t sure things. WSU landed Cleveland State transfer Anton Grady (6-foot-8), an All-Horizon League pick in 2015, and he is eligible immediately. He should give WSU an experienced player who can contribute during his one season of eligibility.

2. Who was added to the roster for 2015-16 and how will the newcomers help?

WSU’s top addition is sophomore guard Conner Frankamp (6-1), a transfer from Kansas. He becomes eligible on Dec. 12 and should give the Shockers a significant boost with his shooting and experience. Frankamp, a Wichitan, practiced with WSU during the spring semester and can both play guard spots.

WSU can also use depth at point guard. Incoming freshmen Landry Shamet (6-4) and Tyrone Taylor (6-4) will try to learn more quickly under seniors Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker than previous candidates.

WSU added forwards Markis McDuffie (6-8) and Eric Hamilton (6-8). McDuffie is a scoring wing and Hamilton went through summer practices with WSU in 2014 before going to prep school last season. Shamet is ranked No. 88 on Rivals.com national list. McDuffie is No. 93 on ESPN’s top 100.

3. Important departures?

Guard Tekele Cotton, a two-time MVC Defensive Player of the Year, is gone and WSU must develop a lockdown defender. Sophomore Zach Brown is the top candidate and his play in March was encouraging.

The Shockers will miss Carter’s scoring and rebounding. For much of the season, he was WSU’s lone inside scoring threat. He scored 22 points and grabbed eight rebounds against Notre Dame in the NCAA Tournament and WSU can’t be sure if it possesses a player capable of a similar effort.

Much to the relief of WSU fans, Baker and VanVleet decided to return after weighing their options to turn professional and skip their senior seasons.

WSU coach Gregg Marshall, who weighed an offer from Alabama, is back and must replace another assistant coach. Steve Forbes took the head coaching position at East Tennessee State after two seasons at WSU.

4. Is this team an MVC contender? Middle of the pack? Thursday contender?

The Shockers will start the season as the MVC favorite. VanVleet and Baker are used to winning MVC titles and their goals will include another deep run into the NCAA Tournament.

5. What games highlight the non-conference schedule?

The Shockers play Utah at Intrust Bank Arena and face UNLV at Koch Arena. It travels to Seton Hall, Tulsa and Saint Louis. The Orlando Classic features Alabama, Dayton, Iowa, Southern Cal, Notre Dame, Xavier and Monmouth.

— Paul Suellentrop, The Wichita Eagle

Posted by & filed under Men's Basketball, Recruiting.

Reitz High School point guard Dru Smith has reportedly received a scholarship offer from the University of Evansville. Smith’s AAU program, Pocket City Basketball, tweeted out the news Wednesday evening.

Smith also holds offers from South Alabama and Indiana State, UE’s Missouri Valley Conference rival. The 6-foot-3 Smith recently completed his junior season at Reitz, averaging 10.5 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.5 assists as the Panthers finished 29-2.

Smith tallied 13 points, six assists, three steals and two blocks in a 91-90 loss to Homstead in the Class 4A state championship game. With his long arms and knack for anticipation, Smith played at the top of Reitz’s trapping zone defenses.

 

Posted by & filed under Men's Basketball, Recruiting.

University of Evansville men’s basketball signee Harris Brown was one of 14 players named Monday to the Indiana Senior All-Star team. The Senior All-Stars will play two-game series against the Indiana Junior All-Stars and the Kentucky All-Stars in June.

Brown, a 5-foot-11 guard, led Indianapolis Howe to its first City tournament title since 1987 while averaging 30.3 points, four assists, 3.5 rebounds and three steals this season.

Here is the rest of the Senior All-Star Team, released Monday by the Indianapolis Star:

Caleb Swanigan, Homestead

Joel Okafor, Richmond

Jaelan Sanford, Reitz

Devin Cannady, Mishawaka Marian

Ryan Cline, Carmel

Ryan Fazekas, Michigan City Marquette

K.J. Walton, Brownsburg

Sean McDermott, Pendleton Heights

Ryan Welage, Greensburg

Matt Holba, Guierin Catholic

Tahjai Teague, Pike

Derrik Smits, Zionsville

Josh Spiedel, Columbus North

Posted by & filed under Baseball.

Thursday is minor league opening day, which means several former University of Evansville baseball players are set to begin their respective seasons.

Here is where the former Aces landed:

— Right-handed pitcher Sam Johns is opening the season with the Single-A Hagerstown (Md.) Suns of the Washington Nationals organization.

— Catcher Kyle Pollock is playing for the Single-A Lexington (Ky.) Legends of the Kansas City Royals organization.

— Right-handed pitcher Kyle Lloyd is throwing for the Lake Elsinore (Calif.) Storm, a High-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres.

— Shortstop Eric Staments is playing for the Arkansas Travelers, a Double-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels.

— Left-handed pitcher Kyle Freeland, a 2014 first-round MLB draft pick to the Colorado Rockies, is working through shoulder fatigue and hasn’t received his minor-league assignment yet.

Posted by & filed under Men's Basketball.

The University of Evansville closed the first half with seven consecutive points to take a 29-21 lead over Northern Arizona in the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament championship game Thursday at the Ford Center.

UE junior Egidijus Mockevicius posted 13 points, six rebounds and one block — the 200th of his career. D.J. Balentine added six points for the Aces, who shot 40 percent from the floor.

Aaseem Dixon went 3 of 10 from the field to pace Northern Arizona with six points.

The physical contest featured six lead changes in the first half. Evansville is winning the rebounding battle 19-17, including 9-8 on the offensive glass.

Posted by & filed under Men's Basketball.

Basic info: CIT championship game — Northern Arizona (23-14, 13-5 Big Sky) at Evansville (23-12, 9-9 Missouri Valley), 6 p.m. Thursday at the Ford Center

Preview story: UE’s Moore gets another opportunity to play at home, this time for CIT title

TV: CBS Sports Network

Radio: WUEV 91.5 FM

 

PROBABLE STARTERS

Northern Arizona: Kris Yanku (6-4, So., G, 13.7 ppg, 5.0 apg); Aaseem Dixon (6-0, Sr., G, 13.0 ppg, 2.3 apg); Quinton Upshur (6-5, Sr., G, 14.6 ppg, 3.5 rpg); Len Springs (6-10, Sr., C, 2.6 ppg, 1.9 bpg); Jordyn Martin (6-7, Jr., F, 7.7 ppg, 7.7 rpg).

Evansville: D.J. Balentine (6-2, Jr., G, 20.2 ppg, 3.2 apg); Duane Gibson (6-3, So., G, 5.1 ppg, 2.7 apg); Blake Simmons (6-5, So., G/F, 7.3 ppg, 2.3 apg); Adam Wing (6-4, Jr., F, 7.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg); Egidijus Mockevicius (6-10, Jr., C, 12.1 ppg, 9.8 rpg).

——

Noting Northern Arizona: The Lumberjacks set a program record with their 22nd win in a CIT quarterfinal win over Kent State. … NAU has won 11 of its last 13 and 15 of its last 18 games. … No Big Sky team has ever won a national postseason tournament. … The Lumberjacks outrebounded NJIT 56-40 Tuesday in their semifinal game, pulling down 23 offensive rebounds. Jordyn Martin grabbed 12 offensive boards and 17 total rebounds. … Martin is the Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year and is averaging 13.8 points and 12.8 rebounds in the CIT.

Noting Evansville: Balentine is averaging 30 points per game for the tournament, knocking down 60 percent of his field-goal attempts and 18 of 30 from 3-point range. … The Aces are shooting 54.1 percent in the CIT, while their opponents are 42.9 percent. … A win would give Evansville its most victories since 1991-92, when the Aces finished 24-6 and lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. … Wing is 21 of 29 from the field in the CIT and averaging 10.8 points.

——

Predictions: Evansville is favored by eight points. Ken Pomeroy’s formula predicts a 72-64 UE win and gives the Aces a 79 percent chance of victory.

Posted by & filed under Men's Basketball.

The University of Evansville men’s basketball team will travel to Fresno State on Dec. 20 for one of 10 contests in the Mountain West-Missouri Valley Challenge Series.

The series is a renewal of a four-year agreement that lasted from the 2009-10 through the 2012-13 seasons. The Mountain West has a 22-13 edge in the previous games.

Here is the complete schedule for the 2015 challenge:

2015 CHALLENGE SCHEDULE

Fri., Nov. 13 — Illinois State at San Diego State, San Diego, Calif.
Fri., Nov. 13 — Air Force at Southern Illinois, Carbondale, Ill.
Sat., Nov. 14 — Colorado State at UNI, Cedar Falls, Iowa
Mon., Nov. 16 — Wyoming at Indiana State, Terre Haute, Ind.
Wed., Nov. 18 — Loyola at New Mexico, Albuquerque, N.M.
Tues., Dec. 1 — Utah State at Missouri State, Springfield, Mo.
Wed., Dec. 2 — UNLV at Wichita State, Wichita, Kan.
Sat., Dec. 12 — Drake at Nevada, Reno, Nev.
Sun., Dec. 20 — Bradley at Boise State, Boise, Idaho
Sun., Dec. 20 — Evansville at Fresno State, Fresno, Calif.

The Mountain West has ranked among the Top 10 in the NCAA’s final RPI report in nine of the last 10 years, while the MVC has been among the Top 10 eight times during that span.

“The reintroduction of this Challenge Series is a positive step for both leagues,” MVC Commissioner Doug Elgin said in a release. “Tough non-conference scheduling has always been paramount in improving our league’s stature on the national scene. The series helps institutions in both leagues achieve that goal. It’s great for the fans of the Missouri Valley and the Mountain West as new rivalries are developed with nationally-recognized programs that have a strong commitment to men’s basketball.”

Evansville and Fresno State played this season, with the Aces defeating the Bulldogs 58-52 in the first round of the Gulf Coast Showcase on Nov. 24. Fresno State finished 15-17 this year, including 10-8 in the Mountain West. UE is currently 23-12 and will play for the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament championship Thursday night.

In future seasons, the MW-MVC Challenge will primarily be played during a nine-day window beginning the weekend after Thanksgiving.

Posted by & filed under Men's Basketball.

Leftover notes, quotes and observations from Evansville’s win over UT Martin on Tuesday in the CIT semfinals (you can read my game story here).

1. D.J. Balentine got going early again and was dominant — again.

In each game of the CIT, Balentine has scored his first basket within the first couple of minutes and never looked back. On Tuesday, UE’s junior shooting guard sank a jump shot 16 seconds in and went on to post a game-high 28 points on 10 of 16 shooting, including 4 of 7 from long range.

UT Martin coach Heath Schroyer had plenty of praise for Balentine, who is torching CIT opponents for 30 points per game.

“I think the big thing is that he has a great IQ,” Schroyer said. “He’s stronger than people think, he has very high release so he’s able to score in midrange. He obviously can make the 3, and he’s better off the dribble, in person, than I thought.

“They do an unbelievable job in their motion of running him off all kinds of different screens but the think that I was most impressed with him, personally, is that he’s a great screener. … I think he’s a heck of a player and he’s gonna make a lot of money playing this game someday.”

2. Every Ace contributed something positive.

Let’s be clear: Evansville has played much better teams throughout the season than UT Martin. But even with that in mind, it may have been the most balanced performance I’ve seen from UE.

The only players who had subpar games by their standards were Egidijus Mockevicius (four points, seven rebounds) and Mislav Brzoja (zero points, three assists, seven rebounds, four turnovers). But Mockevicius only played 20 minutes and challenged plenty of shots at the rim while he was in. And Brzoja’s rebounding and passing helped the Aces even though he went scoreless.

Rather than me regurgitating every player’s statistics, check out the box score and take note of the assist totals from Duane Gibson and Blake Simmons and the scoring numbers of Adam Wing and, in limited minutes, Jaylon Brown and Jaylon Moore.

3. Simmons played perhaps his best half of the season.

It’s clear that Simmons, a 6-5 sophomore wing player, has put the shooting slump that hamstrung him late in the regular season behind him. In the first half Tuesday, he hit 4 of 6 field-goal attempts, including both of his 3-pointers. He also racked up five of his career-high seven assists in the opening frame, including one that drew the loudest cheer of the night from the Ford Center crowd.

On that play, Simmons leaped to meet a pass just before a UT Martin defender reached him and, before landing, whipped a no-look pass from beyond the 3-point line to Wing for a layup.

Simmons also had two of his three steals in the first half. He only went 1-for-6 from the field after the intermission, but his overall game was still solid based on the outstanding first half.

Now, some extra quotes from after Tuesday’s game and before Wednesday’s practice:

Marty Simmons, on UE’s strong play on the fast break Tuesday night: “We’ve really been emphasizing it with the 30-second shot clock even on made baskets we want to push it and put pressure on the defense. Our guys deserve the credit. I thought they got their hands on a lot of balls and knock it loose. They got out and ran well and we finished well in transition.”

Coach Simmons, on the play of his point guards (Gibson and Brown): “It’s kind of a two-headed monster there. Those guys are playing pretty darn good right now.”

Balentine, on the Aces bouncing back from a four-game losing streak entering the CIT:  “It’s more mental. We just started off the tournament really well and that’s carried us. We understand we ended the season very badly and we wanted to change our route. We didn’t want to have a poor end to the season.”

Marty Simmons, on the chance to play for the CIT title:  “It means a lot. I really think that our guys are excited just seeing people around Carson Center today buying tickets. It’s a chance to win a championship. I know both teams are really excited to be here.”

 

Posted by & filed under Men's Basketball.

The University of Evansville men’s basketball team surged to a 46-34 halftime lead against Tennessee Martin in the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament semifinals Tuesday at the Ford Center.

UE closed the half on a 13-3 run. D.J. Balentine led the Aces with 16 points on 6 of 8 shooting, and Blake Simmons added 10 points and five assists.

Adam Wing also chipped in 10 points, running the court to get easy transition baskets on passes from Simmons and sophomore point guard Duane Gibson. Evansville tallied 14 assists compared to five turnovers.

UT Martin stayed close for most of the half thanks to a 7-for-16 performance from 3-point range. Deville Smith buried five of those treys and led the Skyhawks with 15 points.

Posted by & filed under Men's Basketball.

Basic info: CIT semifinal — UT Martin (21-12) at Evansville (22-12), Tuesday, 6 p.m. at the Ford Center

Preview story: Evansville to host ‘explosive’ UT Martin in CIT semifinal

TV: CBS Sports Network

Radio: WUEV 91.5 FM

Noting UT Martin: Senior guard Deville Smith was a finalist for an award for top Division I transfer. The former UNLV Runnin’ Rebel averages team highs of 13.7 points and 4.6 assists. … The Skyhawks are tied for the fourth-best improvement in Division I this season, increasing their win total by 13 from last season. … UT Martin’s wins in the CIT have all come on the road: 104-79 at Northwestern State, 60-49 at USC Upstate and 70-69 at Eastern Kentucky.

Noting Evansville: D.J. Balentine has scored 92 points in the CIT. Balentine’s surge has moved him to No. 17 on the national Division I scoring charts (20 points per game). … The Aces are playing later in March than ever before. … UE has scored at least 82 points in each of its three CIT games. … The Aces have played four of the same common opponents as UT Martin this season. UE lost three times to Illinois State, which beat UT Martin once. Both teams beat Eastern Illinois (UT Martin did twice) and both teams lost to Murray State (UT Martin did twice). UE beat Belmont, while the Skyhawks lost to the Bruins.

Predictions: Evansville is favored by 6 1/2 points. Pomeroy predicts a 71-65 UE win and gives the Aces a 71 percent chance of advancing.