Having established a foundation of excellence, the Whitworth Pirates are doing their best to maintain it.
Gone is Matt Logie, the men’s basketball coach the last eight years. And gone is Kyle Roach, a Northwest Conference player of the year and one of the great players in Whitworth history. The challenge for the Pirates this year is to prove that the program can withstand turnover.
The Pirates’ greatest asset is senior Ben College, the team’s leading scorer a year ago (19.7 ppg) who sank 43.1% of his 3-point attempts.
“I don’t think I’ve played with a better shooter,” said senior Sam Lees. “He has the greenest of lights, and even a tough shot for him is a high-percentage look.”
College will be the focal point of the Pirates offense. But Whitworth’s most proven corps is its backcourt with senior Jordan Lester (12.5 points and six assists per game) and junior Isaiah Hernandez (8.4 ppg and 40.0% from beyond the arc) expected to step up their production to fill the void left by Roach’s graduation.
Jared Christy and Ben Bishop held down the forward and post positions last year, making all 27 possible starts. That void will be filled by a cast of characters, for whom the distribution of minutes has yet to be determined by coach Damion Jablonski.
“There’s been some guys who have come back in a better shape and just in better condition and with a good mentality to compete,” Jablonski said. “Chewy Zevenbergen has done an excellent job in his transition from last year to this year. He always brings a lot of energy, rebounding, (and) physicality.”
Behind him, it gets less clear. Lees, at 6-foot-4, will get his share of minutes at forward, but junior Reed Brown and sophomores JT McDermott and Liam Fitzgerald will have their opportunities as well.
“They each bring something different and important to the table,” College said of the team’s post players. “I can’t tell how everything’s gonna shake out right now, but what I can say is, they’re all working really hard.”
Jablonski said he had ideas but hadn’t yet settled on a rotation, be it an eight-man or something longer than it has been in the past. With seniors consuming 49.7% of the team’s minutes last season, there are a number of unknowns as to who will provide the Pirates their depth.
Jablonski said if there is any tweak to be made to what he and Logie did during their time together (when Jablonski was associate head coach), it is that the new head coach will put a greater emphasis on defense as the NWC picks up its collective pace offensively. In practices so far, that’s been the case, players said.
“We have to problem solve, where previously we were a little more scripted and I think we’d often overthink things,” Lees said. “I think our defense is more reactionary in a good way.”
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