The succession plan had been in place for some time.
Whenever Matt Logie left, Damion Jablonski would move over one chair on the Whitworth bench, and the Pirates’ winning ways on the basketball court would, if all went well, continue.
Logie accepted the head coaching job at Division II Point Loma Nazarene, and making good on the plan, Whitworth Director of Athletics Tim Demant offered the vacated position to Jablonski, Logie’s associate head coach.
Almost six months have passed, and now Jablonski finally gets to run a practice, officially, as the Pirates’ men’s basketball coach on Tuesday afternoon.
He doesn’t anticipate making major changes, but he recognizes there are challenges ahead.
“It’s been a long time of just planning, so I am excited to have real problems to find solutions to,” Jablonski said. “Sorting out offense and defense, and getting better every day.”
One challenge is not particularly unique: Whitworth must replace four seniors, both in leadership and production. Senior Kyle Roach, Ben Bishop, Kevin Crosno and Jared Christy accounted for 45% of the team’s scoring and 51% of its rebounding last year.
But the Pirates return the Northwest Conference’s fourth leading scorer in Ben College, who Jablonski also will lean on to step in as the team’s leader.
“The great news is we also have a strong core of guys who were contributors in the past,” Jablonski said. “Ben College is obviously poised to have a great senior season. I’ve been excited about his advancement and leadership.”
Defensively the Pirates will also need to get better, Jablonski said. The NWC has become an up-tempo conference, following the example of Whitworth and Whitman, who have combined to win the last 13 conference tournament titles.
“We still have the talent to perform offensively, but we definitely have room to improve in the defensive end,” Jablonski said.
Last year the Pirates (21-6 overall) failed to reach the 64-team Division III postseason tournament for the first time since 2006 despite being ranked 21st nationally. Strength of schedule – or Whitworth’s perceived lack of it – was a contributing factor for the committee’s decision to hand out its 20 at-large bids to other teams.
Toward that end, Jablonski crafted a non-conference schedule this year that is considerably more challenging: Six of their non-conference foes – and maybe seven depending on how one tournament goes – are among the top 70 (out of 426 teams) in the preseason D-III Massey Ratings.
The first such foe is Claremont Mudd-Scripps, which visits the Whitworth Fieldhouse for the Pirates’ season opener on Nov. 8.
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