Men’s Basketball Team Prepares For Start of 2008-09 Season
Monday, November 03, 2008
BUILDING SOMETHING NEW
A sense of anxious anticipation surrounds the Calvin men’s basketball program heading into the upcoming 2008-09 season. On January 7, the Knights will host their first-ever varsity game inside the 5,000 seat state-of-the-art VanNoord Arena.
“I think the entire college, our student body and everyone associated with the school is really excited,” said Vande Streek. “Our team has taken tours of the facility during the construction and it’s going to be fabulous.”
While the VanNoord Arena continues to be built, the Calvin men’s basketball team will also seek to build consistency – something that was lacking for portions of the 2007-08 season.
Calvin finished the 2007-08 campaign 16-11 overall and in third place in the MIAA standings with a 9-5 conference mark. Calvin opened the year with a bang, upsetting eventual Division III national champion Washington University 87-82 in the championship game of the Calvin Tip-Off Tournament. Calvin struggled with consistency the rest of the way however, winning just six of its next 14 games. Calvin did win seven of its final 11 but ended the year on a disappointing note with an 88-72 loss in the MIAA Tournament Championship game against a Hope College team that continued on to finish third in the nation. The loss to Hope snapped Calvin’s streak of five consecutive trips to the NCAA III Tournament.
“I would say that last year we had a disappointing season in the fact that we struggled to be consistent,” said Vande Streek. “We’ve got six seniors on this team who are looking forward to showing that last year was a fluke.”
Returning senior letterwinners include guards Caleb Veldhouse (Sioux Falls, SD/Sioux Falls Christian HS), Dustin Smith (Hamilton/Hamilton HS), Mischa McCray (Petoskey, MI/Harbor Light Christian HS) and forwards Tyler Zoerhof (Holland, MI/Holland Christian HS), Tim Katt (Brookfield, WI/Brookfield East HS) and Mike Zwier (Wyoming, MI/Tri-unity Christian HS).
A 6-2 guard, Veldhouse heads into the season resting in 11th place on the Calvin career scoring list with 1,305 points. A pre-season All-American by DIII News and The Basketball Times, Veldhouse averaged 17.2 points a game as a junior while connecting on 42.6 percent of his three-point field goal attempts. A three-time first team All-MIAA selection, Veldhouse will move from the point guard slot to the shooting guard spot this year.
“In my 13 years at Calvin, only two other players have started every game they have played and Caleb has a chance to do that this year which would really be special,” said Vande Streek. “We’re going to move him to the shooting guard spot this year to free him up for some more shots. I think that move will benefit him and our team.”
The running mate in the backcourt for Veldhouse figures to again be Smith who averaged 7.7 points and 3.0 assists-per-game last year. “Dustin brings a certain toughness and tenacity to our team,” said Vande Streek of the former all-state defensive back at Hamilton High School. “We’ve sometimes had him in the starting lineup and sometimes had him come off the bench during his career. He’s the kind of player we want on the floor because of what he brings to the table.”
Zoerhof and Katt figure to vie for playing time at the power forward spot. A 6-6 lefthander, Zoerhof averaged 3.7 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists-per-game last year while the 6-6 Katt contributed 2.7 points and 3.0 rebounds a game. Both players were football standouts in high school with Zoerhof serving as a quarterback at Holland Christian High School while Katt was a tight end at Brookfield East. “Tim and Tyler are both very tough-minded players who bring great passion to the game and know how to get it done,” said Vande Streek. “I expect both of them to contribute heavily this season.”
McCray and Zwier round out the senior class with the 6-3 McCray providing depth in the backcourt and the 6-6 Zwier doing the same in the frontcourt. “I don’t think there is anyone that has invested more in our program over the last three-and-a-half years than Mischa and Mike,” said Vande Streek. “They have both been on the borderline for getting playing time and I think they’re right there again. Regardless of how much playing time they receive this year, we are extremely blessed to have them.”
MAN IN THE MIDDLE/SILKY SOUTHPAW
The man in the middle for the Knights this season figures to be 6-9 junior center John Mantel (Chelsea, MI/Chelsea HS) – a second team All-MIAA selection in 2007-08. Mantel averaged 10.4 points and 5.8 rebounds a game along with 25 blocked shots. “John is very talented,” said Vande Streek. “He had some very good games last year and other games where he was a little inconsistent but I think he has really matured and improved his play. He is a very versatile player and he will certainly be a focal point of what we are doing as a team.”
Joining Mantel in the junior class is 6-6 junior swingman Matt Veltema (Grand Rapids, MI/Calvin Christian HS) who started in 10 games in 2007-08 and averaged 7.0 points a game while connecting on 34 three-point shots. When on top of his game, Veltema is a lethal three-point shooter. “Matt started for us during the first semester and ran into a little shooting slump but to his credit, he regrouped and had a really nice conference season,” said Vande Streek. “He just stretches the defense with his shot and does a lot of other things well. We are looking for a good year from him.”
Sophomores with experience in the Calvin program include 6-6 wingman Danny Rodts (Niles, MI/Niles HS), 6-5 forward Nate Sytsma (Hudsonville, MI/Unity Christian HS) and 6-2 shooting guard Jimmy Strunk (Kentwood, MI/East Kentwood HS).
Rodts averaged 17.6 points and 7.3 rebounds a game on Calvin’s junior varsity team last year. “Danny Rodts isn’t flashy but he is versatile and does a lot of things well,” said Vande Streek. “When the game is over and you look at the box score, Danny will have points, rebounds, assists and very few mistakes.”
Sytsma averaged 17.5 points and 6.9 rebounds a game on the Calvin junior varsity. “Nate is more of a low-post player but he can also step out and score,” said Vande Streek. “He’s creative offensively and he can also rebound. The biggest thing with Nate is that he needs to work on his defense but he is coming on and will be a valuable part of this year’s team.”
Strunk averaged 13.3 points a game on the Calvin junior varsity while also appearing in six varsity games. “Jimmy is going to play at some point,” said Vande Streek. “Whether it will be the year remains to be seen but he can make some plays that no one else on our team can make.”
Newcomers to the team include 5-9 sophomore point guard Trent Salo (Rudyard, MI/Rudyard HS), 6-4 sophomore forward Paul Campbell (West Potomac, VA/Grand Rapids Community College) and 6-6 sophomore forward Brad Schnyders (Hudsonville, MI/Unity Christian HS). Campbell and Schnyders are both transfers from Grand Rapids Community College while Salo is a GLIAC transfer from Northwood Institute.
“Trent Salo brings a lot of leadership to our team,” said Vande Streek. “He is a true point guard who plays tough defense, can knock it in and distribute the ball. He will be a team leader throughout his career.”
Campbell and Schnyders are both transfers from Grand Rapids Community College. “Paul is a very strong rebounder and an excellent on-the-ball defender,” said Vande Streek. “Brad is someone who can score inside and outside and I think his best days as a player are still ahead of him.”
According to Vande Streek, Calvin’s greatest strength this year will be its versatility. “I really like our versatility,” said Vande Streek. “We have players who can play in several different spots on the floor. When I look at our league (the MIAA), I see teams that are going with one big man and four players who can run all over the floor. I think we have the kind of team that can hopefully match up with that style of play this year.”
As for an area of concern, Vande Streek is focusing on Calvin’s rebounding production. Calvin did outrebound opponents by a +1.4 margin in 2007-08 but was outrebounded in six of its 14 MIAA games. “When I look at a starting lineup, I’m going to look for five guys that can rebound,” said Vande Streek. “Rebounding was a weakness at times last year and we’re hoping to improve in that area.”
Calvin will face a demanding non-conference slate in 2008-09 highlighted by the fact that the Knights will not play a home game on campus during the non-conference season while the VanNoord Arena is completed. The Knights will host its own tip-off tournament on November 21 and 22 at the Quest Center on the campus of Grand Rapids Christian High School. Calvin will face Grace Bible College in a first round game with Spring Arbor and Baldwin-Wallace facing each other in the other first round game.
Calvin will again participate in the Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame Tournament with Aquinas, Cornerstone and Hope with Hope serving as host this season. Calvin will open the tournament against Aquinas and will also travel to Aquinas for a single game on December 10.
In addition, the Knights will play in the annual CCIW/MIAA Challenge with nationally-ranked Wheaton scheduled to host the weekend tourney on December 5 and 6. Calvin will open the tournament against the host Thunder and will then meet Carthage the following afternoon inside Wheaton’s King Arena.
A key matchup for Calvin will come on December 5 when the Knights take on a Wheaton (IL) team that reached the 2008 national Quarterfinals and returns four starters including potential pre-season player of the year Kent Raymond. A possible meeting with Defiance in a Christmas Holiday Tournament also looms for Calvin.
The Knights will also journey to Trinity Christian College on December 13 to face up against former Calvin assistant coach Tim Walker. Calvin will spend Christmas vacation at Defiance College, participating in the Defiance Purple and Gold Tournament. Calvin will open the tournament against NCAA III provisional member Geneva College (PA) with Defiance hosting Rockford (IL) in the other first round game.
Calvin’s inaugural game inside the VanNoord Arena is scheduled for January 7 against Trine University (formerly Tri-State). The contest will be part of a doubleheader with the Calvin women playing the Trine women’s team in the preceding game that night.
Calvin will play four of its first seven conference games inside the new facility. It’s first meeting against rival Hope inside the VanNoord Arena is scheduled for Wednesday, February 11.