After winning the NCAA Division III National Championship, the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point mens’ basketball team is back and looking to duplicate last year’s magical run.
This team will look very different than the team last year, after three key starters, Alex Richard, Austin Ryf and Joe Ritchay, all graduated. But this is nothing new for the Pointers.
“Yeah, we did lose four key seniors, and the previous year we lost three as well, including two All-Americans, so every year in this program we are going to lose good seniors. Coach expects us to step up into that role even if we didn’t get a lot of playing time before because every day in practice we were going up against great players,” said senior guard Sean McGann.
McGann will be asked to be a leader for this year’s campaign and realizes his challenge may be a little bit more difficult than years past.
“We are a very young team. I would say one of our weaknesses is that right now we don’t have a ton of experience on this team, but I think that could also benefit us because these young guys are going to be hungry to prove they can play, too,” McGann said.
Both McGann and forward Stephen Pelkofer were regulars in the rotation on last year’s team and they know they still can rely on their teammates for help.
“Steve and I realize that more is going to be placed on us this year, but we know it isn’t anything we aren’t capable of. We are going to expect out of our teammates some of the things we did for last year’s team,” McGann said.
“We know we have to take ownership of this team, but we have played in many big games in our career that we can do that as our other teammates gain some experience as well,” Pelkofer added.
UWSP opened up with a 69-61 win over UW-Superior, in which they started freshman Ethan Bublitz, junior Jared Gjertson and junior Brad Freeborn, in addition to Pelkofer and McGann. The starting lineup will be fluid throughout the non-conference season to figure out specific roles for each player.
Despite a lack of experience, the overall expectation has not changed one bit, Pelkofer said.
“We have great expectations for this team. We want to win another WIAC conference championship and make yet another deep postseason run,” Pelkofer said. “It will be a tough challenge as always, but we are ready for it.”
McGann is just as optimistic.
“As a program we want to compete for the WIAC Championship year in and year out. Right now we are a long ways from doing that, but that will continue to be what we strive for as a program,” McGann added.