Six returners set to anchor Pioneers

UW-Platteville men’s basketball team prepares for 2014-15 season, welcomes five freshman rookies

Brisa Hammel, General Staff

Now that the weather is cooling down, Bo Ryan Court is heating up as the University of Wisconsin-Platteville men’s basketball team kicks off their 2014-15 season.

The team has six returning starters and is ready to showcase the seasoned talents of three sophomores, five juniors and six seniors. In addition, the team will debut five freshmen.

Head coach Jeff Gard said that having six out of the eight top players from last season returning contributes to somewhat of a veteran team.

After conditioning in the off-season, the players have now begun their regular practice schedule, building relationships and communication skills along the way.

“We’ve got a lot of experience coming back, but we’ve got a lot of inexperience coming in,” Rob Stallion, former small forward team turned graduate team assistant, said. “We’ve got to make sure we’ve got everybody on the same page and we’re clicking at the same times and constantly taking steps forward.”

Establishing consistency throughout the course of the season is crucial. The basketball team has been working on preparing the rookies for collegiate level athleticism and implementing a common foundation for the team to build upon.

“We’ve got a young group, so we’re trying to get everyone up to speed on the principles of what we do,” Boston Johnson, junior guard, said.

Senior guard, Wes Nemitz, anticipates practicing the basics in preparation for the first regular season game.

“We are focusing a lot on fundamental basketball techniques right now,” Nemitz said. “We just have to take care of the ball and play our game, and I think we will do a lot of great things this season.”

New to the coaching staff this year are assistant coaches John Pugliese and Kelly Blair.

Naturally, the team hopes to become WIAC champions and to reach the NCAA Tournament, which the Pioneers have not done since 2009.

“Platteville deserves to be in the tournament and we want to get back there,” Jim Stocki, senior forward, said.

For his last season on the team, Stocki said he is looking forward to playing clean, aggressive-style basketball all while playing tough and hard every game.

“We’ve got to focus on what’s right in front of us,” Stallion said. “We have a motto on this team that our most important game is our next game. We just take it one game at a time, we don’t put anything on a pedestal.”

Similarly, Nemitz said that the team looks at every opponent the same way in order to bring the necessary intensity, but that having last year’s D-III champions, the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Warhawks, in the conference always adds a bit more hype.

The men played against the NCAA D-I University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Panthers in an exhibition match Thursday, Nov. 6., losing 68-54.

“It gave our guys a good opportunity to see somebody different,” Gard said. “It’s always nice to see how different teams are going to defend you.”

The Pioneers will face the Coe College Kohawks at home 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 15. In addition, the Pioneers will play against the Ripon College Redhawks at home at 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 16. Both games are part of the Gabe Miller Tip-Off Classic that will take place at Bo Ryan Court.