BLOOMINGTON — Even before the official start of practice Sunday, Illinois Wesleyan basketball coach Ron Rose is pleased with his team.
“I love our guys’ mindset at this point. Preseason went as well as it ever has,” Rose said. “This is a group that loves to play and a group that loves to work. If that mindset and approach can continue for practice, we’re going to be able to make some significant strides in a short time.”
Rose boasts an experienced backcourt led by his son Brady, and the Titans’ inside game received a huge boost with the transfer of 6-foot-8, 240-pound Alex O’Neill.
Brady Rose was a first team College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin all-star last season after averaging 15.7 points as IWU finished with a 17-8 record.
Colin Bonnett added 11.7 points and averaged 17.6 over his final six games. Nick Coleman was an effective perimeter shooter off the bench.
“Those three all grew a tremendous amount as the year went on,” said Coach Rose. “That experience will really pay off this year.”
The Titans added another proven perimeter shooter in transfer Zach Knobloch. The sophomore started 13 games and shot 52 percent from 3-point range last season for another traditional Division III power, Wisconsin-Whitewater.
Also expected to be in the mix for backcourt playing time are senior Derek Streety, juniors Jason Gregoire and Ben Sestak and freshmen Colin Cheaney and Grant Wolfe.
“I don’t think we’ll have one guy run 35 minutes at the point,” Ron Rose said. “We have multiple guys who can handle the ball who would be able to play point.”
A pair of 6-5 freshmen, Doug Wallen and Max Muller, could help at either of the wings.
Building on what Rose considers a growing theme of versatility, sophomore Miles Curry is a candidate to play either a wing or in the post at 6-6.
“Miles has an enormous amount of potential,” said the Titans coach.
A 6-6 senior, Jaylen Beasley was a part-time starter last season and will be asked to aid the effort of offsetting the graduation losses of top rebounders Trevor Seibring and Alec Bausch.
The addition of O’Neill gives Rose the option of occasionally “going big” with 6-9 senior Tyler Burdine.
“Combining Alex with Tyler, we’ve got two guys about as big as anybody in Division III and they’re athletic,” Rose said. “There are several directions we could go with our lineup. We could go smaller and more skilled or we have the possibility of really going big at times.”
Moving up from the junior varsity level, 6-5 junior Danny Baker and 6-7 sophomore Brice Robinson are other inside options.
The Titans open their season at home on Nov. 15 in a 7 p.m. game against Fontbonne.