MC Men's Basketball Enters Second Year Under Skrivseth
Now in his second year at the helm, Monmouth College men's basketball coach Todd Skrivseth has already experienced success this season and the team has yet to play their first game.
"We're ahead of where we were last year at this point," said Skrivseth. "The returners are familiar with the routine, so we're not spending a lot of extra time explaining what we're doing. We've got a group that knows what we do and how we do it, what kind of system we run offensively and defensively, and what our expectations are. They're sharing that knowledge with our new guys."
Skrivseth's squad is not only ahead of the game mentally, they're also ahead of last year's physical fitness in preparing for the demands of the season. The Scots have undergone a vigorous conditioning program that is already paying off in the form of 6-foot-10 senior post Wes Dukeman (Arthur, Ill./Arthur).
"Wes says he's in the best shape of his life," reported Skrivseth. "He's definitely stronger. He's able to go harder and for longer periods. Strength conditioning is a big part of our program and the guys are buying into it. As a whole, we're bigger, stronger, more explosive and in overall better condition. That's a tradition that's beginning to take root."
That conditioning may come in handy for the Scots, who return their top five scorers from a year ago. In addition to Dukeman, who put up 8.8 points and 4.3 rebounds per game last season, the Scots also return leading scorer Kenny Foster (Chicago, Ill./Orr), assists leader Michael DeDecker (Carbondale, Ill./Murphysboro), 3-point specialist Kendall Cox (Paxton, Ill./Paxton-Buckley-Loda) and Brent Burrows (Lewistown, Ill./Lewistown).
Foster - the Scots' top scorer and rebounder a year ago - is a 6'3 senior guard who has added another dimension to go with his more than 20 points and eight rebounds per game.
"His ability is never in question," said Skrivseth. "But he's brought something extra to the table this season. He's made himself a much better passer and that makes him even more dangerous. He's come a long way in the span of a year."
DeDecker - a senior guard - had 81 assists last year in addition to averaging nearly 11 points and more than four rebounds per outing. He'll be joined in the backcourt by Cox - another senior - who drained a team-best 28 treys last season, and the hard-playing Burrows, who saw more than 22 minutes of action per game last year as a sophomore.
"Michael has a ton of experience," reported Skrivseth. "He's done a great job taking care of the ball and creating offense for himself and others. He's a pretty good defender, too. Brent is shooting much better this preseason. Kendall's game is rounding into shape and he's coming into his own."
Skrivseth also expects at least four freshmen to meld with his senior-laden returners.
Guards Wes DeClerq (Hillsdale, Ill./Riverdale), Jon Calhoun (Tinley Park, Ill./Tinley Park) and Nic Marema (Aurora, Ill./Oswego East) will add versatility for the Scots to mix and match on the perimeter.
"Wes is finding his role and doing a great job," reported Skrivseth. "He'll be a great position defender and will be able to knock down some shots. Nic is 6'3 and a good athlete. He'll be able to rebound and score. Jon has a ton of ability. He's got good length for a point guard and can attack the basket, but he can also be a threat from the outside."
Inside, 6'8 forward Ben Friday (Metamora, Ill./Metamora) is expected to serve as the backup to Dukeman. Friday has good mobility and could add that extra force in the paint.
"We think Ben has a bright future," said Skrivseth. "If he can continue to show development in the post, he can be a good one for us. We're expecting a lot out of him."
Skrivseth won't be lacking outside the lane, either. A pair of 6'6 freshman forwards - Andrew Mathison (Donaldson, Iowa/Central Lee) and Matt Juhola (Prophetstown, Ill./Prophetstown) - will add more size to the Scots' bench. The current bench doesn't even include sophomore transfer Chad Thompson (Galesburg, Ill./Galesburg). The 6'7 forward is expected to figure into the Scots' plans once he's healed from an early injury.
"We're anticipating his return in a few weeks," said Skrivseth. "We think he'll be in the mix when he returns."
The decision awaiting Skrivseth now is to determine what kind of lineup to put on the floor. With proven scorers and some promising newcomers, the Scots could pose a threat going into the Midwest Conference season, where they're tied for eighth with Beloit in the preseason coaches' poll. St. Norbert, Carroll and Grinnell are the top three, according to the MWC's coaches.
"We have the ability to put a very athletic team on the floor," claimed Skrivseth. "That will allow us to apply more pressure. Offensively, we want to push the ball."
While Skrivseth wants more pressure and a faster pace, don't expect the Scots to adopt a run-and-gun style. Instead, the Scots' boss is looking at two simple keys for success.
"It will all come down to leadership and rebounding," predicted Skrivseth, whose team averaged just over 68 points and 34 rebounds per game a year ago, nearly even with their opponents. "We need strong leadership to keep us focused on the task this season. We need to rebound well and take care of the ball."
Skrivseth implemented that philosophy and approach to the game in his first season to generate more wins than in the previous two campaigns. This season he hopes to transform the team's improved fitness and leadership into even more wins and the team's first trip to the Midwest Conference tournament in more than a decade.