Pacific Lutheran's men's basketball team is set to tip off pre-season and conference play for the 2012-13 season with high hopes and several new faces.
The 18-man Lute roster features an abundance of youth complimented by key returning veterans. Now entering his seventh season, head coach Steve Dickerson added four incoming freshman in guards Shane Jacob and Erik Swartout, wing player Seth Anderson, and post Bryce Miller. All four newcomers are looking to make an immediate impact to a PLU side comprised of just three seniors.
"We are a work in progress, and we're trying to figure out how to play without James Conti," Dickerson said. "We have much more depth, much more height and much more athleticism than with any team I've had since I've been here. The question is putting all of this together. Every team has a personality and this team is still working on that."
Heading up the backcourt this season are returning sophomore guard Terrell Williams and junior guard Daniel Wruble, a transfer from Everett Community College. Both hope to take the keys to the offense this season after Williams saw limited time behind Conti, the unquestioned team leader and Second Team All-NWC selection who graduated.
Wurble saw time in all 26 of his community college games last season, averaging 9.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game. Replacing Conti's team-leading 13.7 points and 4.8 assists per game will come as a tall task and prime opportunity for Williams, who played slightly more than 200 minutes in 2011-12 as a freshman. Swartout will also be looking to see time at floor general this season.
A returning senior for the Lutes is combo wing/post player Cameron Schilling. A starter in all 25 games last season, as well as joining Conti on the Second Team All-NWC list, Schilling averaged a team-high 6.8 rebounds per game and was second to Conti in scoring with an average of 13.3 points per game. To show of his versatility to stretch defenses on the perimeter, Schilling also shot an impressive 40 percent from beyond the three-point arc.
Junior wing Kai Hoyt also returns for the Lutes this season after seeing significant time last year, starting in all 25 games. Hoyt led all Lutes by shooting 56 percent from the field, and he averaged 7.2 points per game. Both Schilling and Hoyt provide a veteran presence to a Lute frontcourt that could feature a mix of versatile combo players.
Junior wing Johnny Tveter, who started 12 games last season, is a role player who will take a charge, get on the floor for a loose ball, grab an important rebound or hit the occasional jumper. Freshman post Bryce Miller could see significant minutes this season down low with his 6-foot 7-inch frame, as well as returning sophomore Austen Wilson, who saw time in 23 games last year. Freshman forward Cole Parker, who received a medical redshirt season, will be an important addition to the front court.
"We haven't had post players like this for years so we have to learn how to do that," Dickerson said of the inside-outside mix. "We should be able to hurt other teams that way."
Earnest, a shooting guard from Oregon, led the 2011-12 team in three-point field goal attempts with 134 while cashing in 55 for a total downtown shooting percentage of 41 percent. Earnest was also among the nation's leaders in three-point field goal percentage two seasons ago as a sophomore. Reister was also a three-point shooting threat during the 2011-12 campaign, making 38 percent on 120 attempts during the season, and he hopes to continue his efficient scoring this season.
Other key returners include combo guard/wing Arvid Isaksen, who played in 24 games and scored a career-high 17 points against George Fox to cap the regular season. Sophomore guards Daniel Landram, Andrew Alness, Ian Gillespie and Karsten Olson all add a year of experience in the PLU program.
"The guys have worked extremely hard for five weeks," Dickerson said, adding that a tough pre-conference slate of six games in 12 days will help prepare the team for the NWC season. Conference coaches picked PLU to place fifth this season. "I think we'll be ready after a few games. We're hopeful that we're going to have a good season."
The Lutes will open their 2012-13 season at 6 p.m. Friday when they face University of Texas-Dallas at the University of Puget Sound's Doug McArthur Classic. They follow that game witha 5 p.m. Saturday contest against Hope Christian, also at the Doug McArthur Classic.
- PLU -