Olivet 2011-12 men's basketball preview
Head Coach Gene Gifford knows the 2011-12 Olivet College men's basketball season will be different from each of his first four seasons at Olivet. For the first time in his tenure, Gifford will not have a player with the last name, McClary, on the roster. The last one, Michael, ended his career last year as the Comets' career leading scorer and led them to a 13-13 overall record.
In addition to McClary finishing his eligibility last season, two other starters from the 2010-11 season, Nathan Jennings and Joe Post, have exhausted their eligibility. These three players combined to score almost 45 points per game (ppg) and grab nearly 20 rebounds per game (rpg). Post also did a great job distributing the ball, leading the league in assist-to-turnover ratio.
Senior Jaren Edsall (Whitehall) is back for his final season in the red and white. Last season, he averaged 8.2 ppg. Overall in his first three seasons at Olivet, Edsall has played in 67 games, with 44 starts, averaged 5.9 ppg and drained 69 three-pointers. His career single-game scoring high is 17 points at John Carroll (Ohio) University Nov. 28, 2010.
Senior Eric Mack (Eastpointe/Roseville) came to Olivet last season from St. Clair County Community College. In his first season at Olivet, he started half of the 26 games played and had a 4.8 scoring average. Mack had a single-game high 12 points against Trine (Ind.) University Feb. 12, 2011.
Junior Matt El (Allegan) was the first center to come off the bench the last two seasons. He has played in 53 games and scored 107 points, grabbed 130 rebounds and blocked 38 shots.
Other returning players on the roster are senior Paul Koviak (Holton), and juniors Dakotah Ellis (Birch Run), Ray Johnson (Kalamazoo/Plainwell) and Matt Smith (Allegan). They combined to play 40 games last year and score 34 points.
Joining the team in 2011-12 is junior Alvino Ashley (Detroit/Martin Luther King), who transferred to Olivet from Lansing Community College. Seniors Clint Burghdorf (Marshall) and Adam Ruhle (Royal Oak/Shrine Catholic) began their athletic careers at Olivet in another sport, and have decided to play basketball this winter.
Four true freshmen have landed spots on the varsity roster. They are Marquis Childers (Muskegon Heights), Blake Krum (Schoolcraft), Paul Lombard (New Era/Montague) and Stephen Wheelock (Suttons Bay).
Olivet opens its season Nov. 15 when it hosts Aquinas College at 7:30 p.m. The Comets then participate in the Fourth Annual MIAA-WHAC Challenge Nov. 18-19 at University of Mich.-Dearborn (UMD). Olivet has never lost a game of the challenge, winning three games each against UMD and Madonna University.
Other non-conference games are against Anderson (Ind.) University, Bethany (W.Va.) College, Elmhurst (Ill.) College, Ferris State University, Finlandia University and Spring Arbor University. The Comets will also play in the Wittenberg (Ohio) University/Charles B. Zimmerman Tournament during its holiday break.
Olivet will start MIAA play Jan. 4, 2012, when it makes the short trip to play Albion College at 7:30 p.m. The Comets' home league opener is Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012, against Kalamazoo College at 3 p.m.