PREVIEW: Low ranking no problem for new UWS coachCoaches and athletic directors picked the Yellowjackets to finish eighth in the recent Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference preseason poll, but that doesn’t faze Paul Eberhardt, who took over in July as head coach of the Yellowjackets.
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
The University of Wisconsin-Superior men’s basketball team will play the underdog this season after receiving its lowest preseason ranking in five years.
Coaches and athletic directors picked the Yellowjackets to finish eighth in the recent Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference preseason poll, but that doesn’t faze Paul Eberhardt, who took over in July as head coach of the Yellowjackets.
“I don’t mind it at all,” Eberhardt said. “For some of our guys, they’ve already talked about it being motivation.
“We’ll try to relish the underdog role, and hopefully some teams will take us for granted.”
Eberhardt is the fourth coach to lead the Yellowjackets in the past seven seasons. He has prior experience in the WIAC from his time as an assistant coach at UW-River Falls from 1998-2000, and most recently he served as head coach of Scottsdale Community College (Ariz.) men’s basketball team for eight seasons.
The Yellowjackets finished sixth in the WIAC last year with an 8-8 conference mark and a 14-12 record overall. It was the third straight winning season for UWS and the best conference finish in more than a decade.
But Eberhardt leads a team very different from last year’s. Only seven of the 18 players on the roster played for UWS last season.
Gone are starters Ben Aalfs and Dustin Ritchie. Aalfs led the team in scoring with 15.4 points per game, while Ritchie led UWS in assists and steals.
The three returning Yellowjacket starters will resume their roles this year.
Senior Brendan Bauer and junior Bronson Byrne are slated to return at forward and center, respectively. Bauer averaged 10.3 points per game last season and led the Yellowjackets in rebounding with 5.6 per game.
Byrne, the tallest player on the team at 7 feet, averaged 11 points per game and led UWS in blocks with 34.
At guard, senior Trent Davis will return in a starting role. He was second in assists and third in steals for the Yellowjackets last season.
Jarrod Peterson, a junior, also returns and is expected to take on a starting role this season after coming off the bench last year.
“We’re a junior and senior dominated team,” Eberhardt said. “We’re a veteran team, even though it doesn’t seem like that.”
The Yellowjackets have 11 new faces this year, but of the newcomers, only four are freshmen.
Many of the players filling the UWS roster are junior college transfers. Among them are two players who followed Eberhardt from Arizona: Johnquez Brooks, a junior guard, and Austin Cahill, a sophomore guard.
Brooks is expected to take over as the starting point guard for the Yellowjackets this season. He played in more than 60 games during his two years starting at guard at Scottsdale Community College.
Cahill is expected to come off the bench for UWS. Eberhardt said fans can expect some excitement from the sophomore.
“He’s kind of an instant offense type of guy,” Eberhardt said. “He likes to take the big shots.”
Another familiar face back for the Yellowjackets is Aaron Corry, a 2009 graduate of Northwestern High School. Corry played for UWS in his first two seasons at the school but took last year off.
“He’ll be a key contributor for us,” Eberhardt said.
Among the underclassmen, 6-foot-6 freshman Brian Lindblom of Spooner will likely see time on the court.
The Yellowjackets plan to take advantage of their returning big men this season by working the ball inside to Byrne and Bauer, but Eberhardt said the team won’t be limited to just inside play. He hopes to see UWS push for baskets in transition and switch to an inside-out game when the fast break fails.
“Having watched the team last year on film, I actually think we’re going to be a little bit more up-tempo,” Eberhardt said.
The Yellowjacket men open their season at 7 p.m. Thursday with a home game against Northland College. UWS will play its first WIAC game of the season Dec. 1 against UW-Stevens Point. That game is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. in Mertz Mortorelli Gym.