November 13, 2013
After a disappointing end to the 2012-13 season, the MacMurray College men’s basketball team is looking forward to a bright 2013-14 season. The Highlanders failed to secure a berth in the SLIAC postseason Tournament for the first time in four years last season when they lost their last game of the season. While the 2012-13 Highlanders posted a winning record (13-12) for the fourth consecutive season, their season ended too soon.
MacMurray College Head Coach Todd Creal enters his seventh season as the Highlanders’ coach and has several reasons to be optimistic about the upcoming season. The Highlanders return four starters and eight letter winners from last season. The Highlanders' returning talent also caught the attention of the SLIAC coaches; who rated MacMurray #2 behind defending-conference champ Spalding University in the preseason poll.
The Highlanders are led by two-time captain and senior forward Brady Slagle; fellow senior captains guard Spencer Pratt, forward Cole Busch, and forward Dylan Burton. Slagle and Burton, both former SLIAC Newcomers of the Year and SLIAC All Conference members, both spent significant time on the injured list last season and are looking forward to healthy productive senior years. Cole Busch is a four-year varsity player that has served as both a starter and key reserve. A strong senior class is rounded out by guard Paul Crowder and guard/forward Jeremy Rolf.
The junior class is loaded with talent as well and led by the only returning SLIAC First-Team All-Conference returning player in center Clayton Whitlock. “Clayton gives us a dynamic that allows us to control the flow of a game by getting him the ball on the low block,” said Creal.
The junior class also contains guard Dylan Guthrie and forward Hunter Sutton, who both started games last year for the Highlanders. “Dylan and Hunter afford us a lot of offensive firepower either in the starting line-up or coming off the bench…and they have had a deep impact on our team,” Creal added. The final returning junior on this year’s squad is guard James Williams; who, according to Coach Creal, has spent the last two years working hard to get his chance to contribute.
“This season is going to be fun,” Creal noted, “one of the most fun things about it involves James Williams and senior Paul Crowder; guys who didn’t get any varsity time the last couple years because they had older experienced guys in their positions. Both of them worked really hard and had great attitudes in spite of being disappointed with their previous roles. This year they are going to get their opportunity to bring some real energy and enthusiasm to our team. I am excited for them and for our team because they have earned it and will make our team better this year.”
Rounding out the juniors on the roster are Josh Shipley and Mason Rowe; who both joined the team after the conclusion of their soccer seasons.
The sophomore class includes point guard Kollin Keltner, who began last year as the back-up point guard but ended up running the team in the last ten games after an injury sidelined senior starter Cody Best.
“Kollin showed some real poise last year for a freshman,” said Creal. “We put him in some real pressure spots down the stretch and he played with maturity beyond his years. He’s also one of our hardest workers and we look forward to seeing the improvements in his game this year.”
Sophomore guard Cash Hubble has shown massive improvement from his first season. Guards Matt Ferrari and Adam Wakefield round out the Highlanders’ sophomore class.
Coach Creal is also optimistic about his recruiting class this year and the impact they will have this year and for the next four seasons. “Brent Long and Dylan Smith were both guys we recruited knowing that they had the talent and pedigree to be players in our program,” said Creal, “and the first several weeks of practice have re-enforced those beliefs.”
Guard Tim Frazier has also impressed the coaching staff in the early going and Adam Beard rounds out the freshman class.
Another outstanding "recruit" this year is first-year Assistant Coach Matt Zosel, who was an outstanding collegiate athlete at Southern Oregon University before he joined the armed forces in 2005. Coach Zosel served as an Airborne Ranger and worked for the U.S. Department of State prior to joining the Highlanders this fall.
For Coach Creal and his staff and players, 2012-13 is a distant memory that has helped shape their goals for the upcoming season. With a solid nucleus of healthy returning contributors, the 2013-14 Highlanders expect to compete for the SLIAC Conference regular-season title, a SLIAC Tournament title and ultimately, a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
“I think those are the goals you have every year and I think this team has the talent to do just that,” said Creal. “We will have to come together as the year unfolds to maximize our talents and play together as a team at a championship level.”
The 2013-14 begins on Saturday, November 16, when the Highlanders face Rust College (Miss.) and Calumet College of St. Joseph (Ind.) the following day at the Webster University Tip-Off Tournament in St. Louis, Mo.