Did any college men’s basketball program have a more exciting offseason than Whitworth?
Certainly no one was busier than coach Matt Logie and his staff, who not only reloaded, but apparently found just the right ammunition.
With more than half their roster comprised of newcomers, the Pirates are 5-0 and ranked 13th in Division III going into Friday night’s Northwest Conference opener at Puget Sound.
“We’re having a lot of fun, on the court and off,” said junior wing Kyle Roach – the Pirates’ lone returning starter from last year – who helped the Pirates to a pair of Thanksgiving week wins in Hawaii.
The fun was preceded by a lot of hard work, which began even before a senior-heavy squad finished last season with another berth in the NCAA Division III Tournament.
“We knew going into this transition that it would be a big challenge,” said Logie, who lost starters Christian Jurlina, Drew Sears, Kenny Love and Derek Isaak to graduation.
But even as he led the Pirates to 23-5 record, Logie was working on his transition plan. So was guard Jordan Lester, a talented point guard out of Sammamish, Washington, who was homesick after two years playing in Pittsburgh for Division I Robert Morris.
Logie had failed to land Lester out of high school, but they connected again last spring. Now Lester is averaging 14.4 points and a team-high 4.4 rebounds.
Recalling the strong tradition of guard play at Whitworth, Logie said that “as a coach, you get spoiled to find someone of Jordan’s caliber to come in and take those reins.”
Lester appreciates the chance, especially after an injury cost him most of his sophomore season at Robert Morris.
“Coach told me that this would be the perfect opportunity, and it is,” Lester said. “Everything has been going really well. … Once we continue to jell, we don’t have any limits in his far we can go.”
It was the same story for senior forward Jared Christy, a Ferris High School star who started his career at Pacific Lutheran, but was pulled back to Spokane by the academics as well as the Pirates’ tradition on the court.
Christy knows that firsthand, as Logie is 15-0 against UPS in six seasons. During that same span, Logie is149-25 overall and 86-10 in the NWC.
“We’ve competed against him for a couple of years, so we know how talented he is,” Logie said of Christy, who’s averaging a team-high 6.6 rebounds.
The addition of upperclassmen Lester and Christy fulfilled Logie’s vow to “not get too young too quick,” and allowed an easier transition for five true freshmen.
Through it all, Logie and the newcomers have leaned on Roach and the other key returnees, sophomore guard Ben College and junior post Ben Bishop.
“It’s definitely new having a lot of young guys, but I was able to learn from a lot of great players,” said Roach, who’s averaging 12.8 points and four assists.
Last week, the Pirates passed their first big test of the season in the Hoops-in-Hawaii Thanksgiving Classic in Honolulu. They opened with a 75-72 win Friday over No. 12 North Central (Illinois) and followed by beating Arcadia to improve to 5-0.
“This past weekend showed how tough our basketball team and gave us and idea about what the NCAA Tournament would feel like,” Logie said. “I feel good about the mettle of this team.”