The damage was dealt to the UW-Parkside basketball program’s 2017-18 outlook months before the season even tipped off.
In May, the Great Lakes Valley Conference imposed a dozen penalties on the Rangers’ athletic program for NCAA compliance violations. One of those sanctions rendered the men’s and women’s basketball teams ineligible for a division title or postseason play this year.
With its vote and subsequent rejection of Parkside’s appeal, the conference instantly broke the Ranger men’s streak of five NCAA Division II tournament appearances. The fallout got worse when senior Kendale McCullum, a first-team all-GLVC guard, transferred to conference rival Lewis University.
Toss in the graduation of two of Parkside’s top three scorers and the concussions that forced starting forward Kyle Flanagan to step away from the game after two college seasons, and the Ranger men dive into their schedule with essentially a new cast.
“There are a lot of things out of our control this season, but how we approach our work every day doesn’t change,” said coach Luke Reigel.
In a preseason poll, the Ranger men and women both were picked last in the five-team GLVC East Division. Parkside announced in September that this will be its final season in the league before shifting to the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
Facing similar obstacles, the women’s team chose to defer its hopes for a year by redshirting five players. Coach Jacob Yorg explained that gives key juniors and seniors another crack at postseason play the following year and battle-tests the young players now.
“The decisions we are making this year are … growing all of our players in a way to walk into the GLIAC as a top-four team,” he said.
Below are capsule previews:
COACH: Luke Reigel, 15th season
LAST SEASON: 22-8 overall, 13-5 GLVC East (third place out of eight). Lost in first round of NCAA Division II tournament.
ROSTER (x-returning letterwinner): Seniors – Jameel Moore (6-foot-3 guard), x-Espen Fjaerestad (6-4 forward). Juniors – x-Adam Bonk (6-0 guard), x-Bret Barclay (6-5 forward), x-Cody McIntyre (6-5 forward). Sophomores – x-Linwood Lee (5-11 guard), x-Joe Borcia (6-9 center). Freshmen – Jonah Matulle (6-4 forward), Ramar Evans (6-1 guard), Riley Keckelsen (6-1 guard), Brandon Trimble (6-2 guard), Cameron Myre (6-7 guard/forward), Brandon Hau (6-7 guard/forward).
OUTLOOK: Set to open play this weekend with a Michigan road trip, the Rangers will suit up none of last season’s top six scorers.
“We are looking for our juniors and seniors who have quality experience to step up,” Reigel said.
Specifically, he pointed to Fjaerestad and Bonk, who averaged double-digit minutes as key reserves in 2016-17, as well as Moore.
One reinforcement should be coming in December. Goran Zagorac has one semester of eligibility left after topping Parkside with 6.1 rebounds per game last season.
COACH: Jacob Yorg, fifth season
LAST SEASON: 10-17 overall, 8-10 GLVC East (tied for fifth place out of eight)
ROSTER (x-returning letterwinner): Senior – x-Hayley Maystead (5-10 forward). Juniors – Ali Bettencourt (5-10 guard/forward), x-Georgie Eishold (5-8 guard), x-Asiah Lawson (5-9 guard), Lucija Bilic (6-0 forward). Sophomores – x-Maycee Kroening (5-6 guard), x-Carolina Rahkonen (5-10 guard/forward), x-Rebecca Moura (5-7 guard). Freshmen – Johanna Myers (5-11 guard/forward), Alisha Murphy (5-5 guard), Aina Cabrero (5-9 guard).
OUTLOOK: Besides the redshirts and graduated top scorer Brittney Fair, former Horlick High School standout Lauren Boerger isn’t on the roster this year. Roles are there for the taking.
“We are asking a lot of our players to step out of comfort zones and learn new positions,” Yorg said. “Our success this year will be based on how we as coaches can help them and the entire team maximize their abilities.”
Early returns from the Rangers’ 0-3 start in last weekend’s D-II Tipoff Classic suggest a diverse scoring attack led by Maystead and Bettencourt. Bilic, a transfer from a community college in Idaho, has already blocked seven shots.