Mike Zwier Emerges as Key Member of Calvin Men’s Basketball Team
Thursday, January 22, 2009
By Bruce Van Baren (Calvin Sports Information Student Assistant)
Mike Zwier is proof that hard work and determination pays off. Zwier earned a starting spot this season after spending most of his first two varsity seasons on the bench.
A junior varsity player his freshman year, determination got the 6-6 senior forward a spot on the varsity team.
But in his first two years with the varsity squad, the Tri-Unity graduate played in fewer than half of the Knights’ 56 games, averaged fewer than four minutes per game and only took 14 shots in two seasons. For the record he made ten of them.
Zwier didn’t just leave his mark on the padded chair he occupied most of the five month long season grind. Behind the scenes, Zwier was pushing Calvin’s post players to the limits in practice.
“Individuals don’t come any better than Mike,” coach Kevin Vande Streek said. “For someone who has played as few minutes as he has played in the last couple years to keep working hard, being enthusiastic and always trying to make his teammates better is great.”
Before Zwier even stepped foot on the court last season, former Calvin guard Derrek Griffin was quick to praise him for pushing the Knights to the limits in practice.
“He doesn’t get a lot of credit,” Griffin said unprovoked a year ago after a win against top-ranked Washington University. “But what you guys don’t see is how hard he pushes us in practice.”
It’s a role Zwier has taken pride in.
“I’ve always respected our post players,” Zwier said. Last year I told coach I’m going to make their lives miserable in practice. I was going to beat on them and make practice really tough for them because I knew I was making them better.”
Zwier acknowledges the five month grind that spreads across both college semesters hasn’t always been easy.
“It’s a lot of time and it’s a big investment,” Zwier said. “You have to realize that (going in). But it’s awesome because I have always wanted to play for Calvin. When I finally got the opportunity to do that it was pretty amazing.”
Zwier was given another opportunity against Geneva in late December when he made the starting lineup for the first time. In his first game as a starter Zwier scored five points, grabbed five rebounds and dished out four assists.
“I was really excited (when I found out I was startin),” Zwier said. “The last two years have been kind of tough playing a (reserve) role. I was glad to be able to change that role.”
Zwier had been playing consistently in the 10 to 12 minutes that he was averaging and Vande Streek liked what he saw.
“It’s great to see that he’s gotten into the rotation,” Vande Streek said. “All that hard work and selflessness has really paid off. He rebounded so well in the ten, twelve minutes that he played (coming off the bench), I thought let’s play him 20 to 25 minutes and see what we get. And it’s been very positive.”
Zwier started six games prior to Wednesday’s loss to Olivet. With Zwier in the starting lineup Calvin went 6-0, its longest winning streak since the 2005-2006 season.
“It’s been very positive,” Vande Streek said. “We struggled in that spot to replace Josh (Engelsma). We’ve tried some different things. Mike has just solidified that spot.”
Zwier scored two points, but grabbed eight rebounds, seven of which were offensive, coming off the bench in Wednesday’s loss to the Comets.
“He’s probably our best offensive rebounder,” Vande Streek said.
Zwier averages 4.3 rebounds per game, second only to John Mantel who averages 7.3 rebounds per game.
“He’s kind of earned his way by playing very fundamental defense and being a really good rebounder,” Vande Streek said.