Men’s basketball prepares for 2016-2017

Chris Snow

The Ashland University men’s basketball team is getting ready for the 2016-17 season with hopes of building upon its successes from last year.

Last season saw the Eagles finish 25-6, win the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference South Division, tie for the GLIAC regular-season title for the first time in program history and make the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 25 years. 

The Eagles will be led this year by the trio of senior guard Adrian Cook (12.5 points per game, 2.7 assists per game); junior forward Marsalis Hamilton (12.2 ppg., 6.6 rebounds per game); and senior guard Boo Osborne (12.0 ppg.).

Other starters for AU this season are redshirt sophomore point guard Ben Haraway — a Malone transfer who was the 2015 GLIAC Freshman of the Year for the Pioneers and averaged 13.5 points and 3.4 assists per game two years ago — and junior 6-foot-8 center Teddy Metzen (2.9 ppg.). 

Senior Wendell Davis — who was first team All-GLIAC last year and averaged team-highs in points (17.4), rebounds (7.7) and assists (3.3) — is out for the season due to tearing his anterior cruciate ligament during the summer. 

Ashland coach John Ellenwood — who has a 109-83 record at AU and is beginning his eighth season at the helm — expects multiple players to step up and fill the offensive void left by Davis’ injury and anticipates more balanced scoring from his team this year.

“We have nine guys that could put up 10 points or more,” Ellenwood said. “That’s a great problem to have as a coach because it creates a lot of balance.”

But he believes Osborne, Cook, Haraway and Hamilton will “score the most points on a consistent basis.”

Others expected to see significant playing time for the Eagles off the bench are sophomore guard Nick Bapst (5.1 ppg.), sophomore forward Phil Frentsos (3.1 ppg.), redshirt senior forward Torin Wetzel (4.7 ppg., 2.9 rpg.) and freshman 6-8 center Drew Noble.

Ellenwood expects Haraway, Metzen and Noble to take big steps forward and make an appreciable impact for his team.

According to Ellenwood, the goals for the Eagles this season remain the same as every year — compete for a GLIAC championship, make it to the NCAA postseason and be nationally ranked. 

Ellenwood believes that achieving those goals is a process that takes time and happens through getting better every day in practice.

When on offense, Ashland’s philosophy is to create and attack a numbers advantage.

“Whatever we run (offensively) is to get a numbers advantage,” Ellenwood said. “Once we get that numbers advantage, we want to attack a team to score.”

AU’s base offensive system is a 4-out, 1-in motion offense, which features a lot of passing, cutting, dribble handoffs and ball screens. 

Defensively, the main point of emphasis for the Eagles is to not give up easy points — whether it is through rebounding, transition or points in the paint. 

AU mainly plays man-to-man defense, but will use a zone scheme throughout the game if it creates a defensive advantage.

“Going into a game, we’re always thinking man-to-man,” Ellenwood said. “But there’s games where we’ve played an entire game in zone simply because the other team struggles against it.”

Ellenwood expects Osborne — who earned All-GLIAC Defensive Team honors last year and averaged a team-high 1.5 steals per game — to lead the Ashland defense. 

He also believes Metzen and Noble will play strong interior defense, and adds that Cook is a “deceptive defender” and Frentsos’ “length, speed and athleticism” will make an impact on the defensive end. 

When looking at other teams in the GLIAC, Ellenwood feels that there are no days off.

“In our league, there’s not a bye game,” Ellenwood said. “Everybody’s got scholarships. Everybody cares about men’s basketball . . . There’s not going to be an easy game, and that’s just kind of the way it is top to bottom.” 

The Eagles opened their season with a 70-64 victory over Indianapolis at the Indianapolis Tournament on Nov. 12.

On the second and final day of the Indianapolis Tournament (Nov. 13), Ashland was defeated 74-62 by Southern Indiana.

AU heads to Shawnee State on Nov. 15, and then has its home opener against Wilberforce on Nov. 19 at 3 p.m.

Ashland begins GLIAC play Dec. 1 at Lake Superior State.