The Gorloks expect to use returning players and their versatility to make-up for preseason setbacks.
Men’s basketball team to rely on underclassmen in upcoming season
Even though the Webster University men’s basketball team won 20 games as well as the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament last season, the Gorloks figure to be underdogs in the conference this year.
That’s because the Gorloks graduated five seniors last season and won’t have their leading scorer in Willie Trimble. Trimble isn’t playing because of personal reasons. Although last season was regarded as one of the most successful campaigns in school history, the Gorloks will have a whole new look this year.
“We just have to be who we are and not worry about who we lost,” coach Chris Bunch said. “The other teams in the conference know we lost all those seniors and Trimble and think we have very little. We are going to be better than the rest of the league thinks.”
The Gorloks will have four new starters this year, but Bunch expects contributions from a number of freshmen and junior college transfers.
“We have some very talented new players in junior college transfers Dietrick Sooter and Roman Robinson,” Bunch said. “These guys played junior college ball and started for two years on their teams. They may not have the experience of our conference, but they have a lot of experience playing college basketball.”
Freshmen Danny Zehner, Ahmad Smith and Lawrence Williams expect to see a lot of minutes early in the season.
“It’s a talented group,” Bunch said. “We’ll see how it shakes out.”
Because of Trimble’s absence, sophomore Hollis Edwards will be the starting point guard and will have the responsibility of directing the team. Other key players figure to be junior guard Cody Bradfisch, sophomore forward Stefan Whittingham and sophomore center Jarrod Huskey.
“My job is to get the ball to Cody or Jarrod, and they will score,” Edwards said. “I look to pass first and then score. I am the point guard and leader of the team.”
Huskey is the lone returning starter from last season. He will be counted on heavily to carry the load for the young Gorloks, who have no seniors on the team.
“Jarrod is our No. 1 option,” Bradfisch said. “He can be one of the best post players in the conference.”
Bunch said the Gorloks will run, push the ball up the court and shoot from the perimeter because of their size, as Bunch said this year’s team is smaller than last year’s. Bradfisch, who averaged 8.3 points per game off the bench last year, will be counted on to score from the outside.
“I am looking for Cody to score from the perimeter,” Bunch said. “I am expecting him to shoot well, but we have a lot of guys who can step up every night.”
With all the new players, Bradfisch thinks there will be an adjustment period before the Gorloks get comfortable in their new roles.
“We have to see how chemistry is going to be and how we work together,” Bradfisch said. “We have to get a feel for each other. That will come as the season moves along.”
Bunch said it’s important for everyone to work together and gel as a team, but that takes time.
“Our talent level is high,” Bunch said. “We need to get everyone on the same page, work through the battles and what adversity comes our way. If we can do that, we’ll be OK.”
Bradfisch said the Gorloks’ goal is to win conference and play in the NCAA tournament. But Webster will have plenty of competition from SLIAC opponents.
“I hope we are under the radar,” Bradfisch said. “Westminster, MacMurray, Spalding, Greenville and us are all going to be good. But we expect a bull’s-eye on our backs because we won the conference last year. It will be tough to repeat.”
Webster played at the University of Tennessee at Martin, a Division I team, in a Nov. 4 exhibition game. Webster had a lead in the second half, but the Gorloks fell hard and lost 90-72.
“We have shown we have the ability to play at a high level when we faced Tennessee Martin,” Bunch said. “We had a very good scrimmage.”
The Gorloks begin playing games that count when they host the Cavallo Classic on Nov. 19 and 20 at Grant Gymnasium. Webster tips off its regular season against Bluffton University on Nov. 19 at 8 p.m. The next day, the Gorloks face Maryville College at 8 p.m.