BLOOMINGTON — Versatility and depth are assets Ron Rose welcomes on his Illinois Wesleyan basketball team.
Those traits also make the job of sorting out his players and their roles a bit more difficult.
“The challenge for the coaching staff is we’ve got 12-13 guys, and we need to figure out a rotation,” said Rose, whose team opens its season Wednesday at Shirk Center in a 7 p.m. nonconference game against Fontbonne.
“We have to get that down to nine or 10. We do have more depth than we’ve had the last couple years.”
A large addition to the roster in more ways than one is 6-foot-9, 245-pound transfer Alex O’Neill. The former Peoria Christian standout spent time at Creighton and Division II St. Cloud State before enrolling at IWU.
“I really like it so far. It’s a great group of guys,” O’Neill said. “First and foremost for me, it’s about being able to score on the block and also being versatile by going out on the perimeter and shooting a little bit.”
“Alex is a unique player at our level because of his size and athletic ability,” said Rose. “He has made significant progress in terms of his conditioning and understanding the system. We’re confident he’s going to be a really good player for us this year. He gives a physical presence in the middle immediately.”
Other newcomers likely to make an impact on the Titans are sophomore transfer Zach Knobloch and freshmen Doug Wallen and Grant Wolfe. Knobloch is a shooting guard, Wallen a forward and Wolfe a point guard.
“Zach is uncanny how he gets his shot off quick. Oh, can he shoot,” Rose said. “Grant and Doug have put themselves in position to be in the rotation right now. They have competed really well and picked things up quickly.”
Junior Colin Bonnett is recovered from a concussion that sidelined him early in preseason practice. Bonnett and junior Brady Rose will serve as captains.
“Those two really anchor the backcourt,” said Coach Rose. “I’m tremendously pleased. This group has shown a willingness to work hard and a willingness to be coached. This is as athletic a group as we’ve had since I’ve been here and a very skilled group.”