BLOOMINGTON — The Illinois Wesleyan basketball team returned to the NCAA Division III Tournament last season for the first time since 2015.
Yet a first-round NCAA loss to Wooster has a Titans’ team that returns four starters eager to open practice Monday, according to IWU coach Ron Rose.
“They look great. It’s a hungry group,” Rose said. “I don’t know if we’ve had a group any more anxious to get started than this group has been.”
Brady Rose, a 6-foot-3 senior, the coach’s son and a two-time College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin first team all-star, averaged 21.4 points last season and is joined by seniors Colin Bonnett (12.3) and Jason Gregoire (8.1) and junior Alex O’Neill (9.2).
“Those four guys had great offseasons. They are all going to be better than they were a year ago,” said Coach Rose, whose squad is ranked No. 19 in the preseason poll of d3hoops.com. “It certainly creates high expectations for this team.”
A prime candidate to take over the starting position vacated by the graduated Jaylen Beasley is 6-6 junior Miles Curry.
"Miles had a terrific offseason, and I think he's going to take that next step," Ron Rose said. "Miles fits the trend of position-less basketball. He may play the four (power forward) and play it like a perimeter player would play the four."
Sophomore Grant Wolfe's court time increased as the season wore on last season. A natural point guard, Wolfe will allow Brady Rose to move off the point when both are in the game.
"You can tell Grant is more comfortable and aggressive as a sophomore," said Rose.
Doug Wallen, another sophomore, seems destined for additional playing time after contributing in small doses as a freshman.
"I wish I had played Doug more," said the IWU coach. "He has unique skills with his size and athletic ability from the perimeter."
Two not in the mix on the perimeter for the Titans are Zach Knobloch and Nick Coleman. Both decided not to play this season. A long range 3-point shooter, Knobloch averaged 7.3 points last season and Coleman 4.1.
"We appreciate their efforts. They're great kids," Rose said. "Everybody has to make a decision on how they are going to spend their time. It opens up opportunities for other guys."
The Titans will need to unearth rebounding help for the 6-9 O'Neill inside. Backup center Tyler Burdine joined Beasley as the lone seniors last season.
Danny Baker, a 6-6 senior, was a key reserve last season. Other inside possibilities include 6-7 junior Brice Robinson, 6-7 sophomore Charlie Bair and 6-6 freshman Matthew Leritz.
IWU begins its season with consecutive exhibitions against Division I opponents, Illinois-Chicago on Nov. 1 and the University of Illinois on Nov. 2.