Matt Logie is a firm believer that tradition never graduates.
So the former associate head coach at Lehigh University was well aware of the lofty expectations at Whitworth when he agreed to take over the Pirates men’s basketball program last April.
“It was actually something that attracted me to this opportunity,” Logie said of the expectations he inherited after last year’s Whitworth team rose to the top of the NCAA Division III national rankings, won a 5th-consecutive Northwest Conference title and advanced to the sectional finals of the D-III tournament before losing to host and 5th-ranked Wooster 76-66.
“I think they’re a very positive thing that helps hold your players to high standards of excellence. They’ve had a lot of different players come through this program, and the one constant with all of them has been that Whitworth has won.”
Last year’s team won a school-record 28 games, while losing only two. And despite the graduation losses of NCAA Division III Player of the Year Michael Taylor, second-leading scorer David Riley and lockdown defender Clay Gebbers, the Pirates are ranked 12th in this year’s D3hoops.com preseason poll.
That doesn’t surprise Logie, who felt “very fortunate” to have several veteran players – including returning starters Felix Friedt and Wade Gebbers and super sixth-man Jack Loofburrow – at his disposal as he attempts to build on winning tradition built under his predecessor Jim Hayford.
Friedt, a 6-foot-8, 243-pound senior, was a second-team all-NWC selection after averaging 12.4 points and a team-high 7.3 rebounds as a junior, and Gebbers, a 5-11, 168-pound junior point guard, averaged 9.1 points and 3.1 assists. Loofburrow, a 6-7, 240-pound senior wing, averaged 12 points and six rebounds, while shooting a 45.9 percent (73-159) from 3-point range.
“Felix was pretty much a staple on the interior for us, and has also been a tremendous leader for our program during this transition,” Logie said of Freidt. “And Jack and Wade both played a ton of minutes and had a lot of success in their own right.
“In those three I feel like we have three really strong components of a good basketball team, in terms of interior play (Friedt), solid point-guard play (Gebbers), and then somebody (Loofburrow), who can score in a variety of ways.”
Logie is also high on several returning players, like sophomore guards Dustin McConnell and Colton McGargar, who both gained valuable experience as backups last winter. And he likes his first recruiting class, which included senior wing Idris Lasisi, a transfer from North Idaho College, and freshman center Taylor Farnsworth, a Mead High graduate, who redshirted at the University of Montana last year.
Under Logie, the Pirates will look to be a little less structured and faster paced this winter. But they will still rely on many of the same defensive concepts used by Hayford – all of which seems to set well with his players.
“It hasn’t been that big a change, really,” Gebbers said of the coaching change. “Last year we had a lot more set plays than we have this year, and we might run a little more. But I like the new style of play.”
And when asked about the Pirates’ lofty preseason ranking, despite some heavy graduation losses, Gebbers added:
“We lost a lot of talent, sure, but every good team is going to lose talented players, and I’m confident in the guys we have coming back. I think we have a great team, and we’re not about to take a step back.
“If anything, we’re going to try to take that next step forward and maintain the respect that Whitworth players in the past have built up.”
Helen Higgs, in her 18th year as Whitworth’s head coach, returns four players – including scoring leader Emily Guthrie – who started all 25 games on last year’s 11-14 team, which finished 7-9 in the Northwest Conference.
Guthrie, a 5-foot-7 junior guard, averaged a team-high 11.9 points as a sophomore, while also finishing as the Pirates’ second- leading rebounder with an average of 4.7 per game.
The other returning starters are former Lewis and Clark High School standout Emily Travis, a 5-8 junior wing; Lauren Picha, a 5-7 junior guard, and Jamie Lyons, a 5-10 sophomore forward.
Also returning is Lexi Belcher, a 5-10 senior forward, who played in 17 games as a junior after transferring from Centralia Community College, and averaged 9.6 points and 3.9 rebounds.
Five other letterwinners, all of whom played in at least 18 games, are also back from last year’s team, leaving Higgs with only one major graduation vacancy – that of last year’s top rebounder and second-leading scorer, Taylor LaMoreaux – to fill.