By: Sean Neidig, sports information graduate assistant
COLUMBUS, Ohio – After an offseason of preparation and improvement, Capital University Men's Basketball is looking to show that it is ready to once again contend for Ohio Athletic Conference championships.
The 2016-17 Crusaders posted the program's best record since the 2012-13 season and while this year's team is young in years, it is heavy on experience.
The combination of one senior, five juniors, four sophomores and six freshmen has 23rd-year head coach Damon Goodwin excited about the program's direction.
"I think we're heading back towards competing for championships," Goodwin said, "which we haven't done the past few years. Our guys are committed to making our program one of the best in the conference."
Capital only lost two seniors to graduation, including Second-Team All-OAC guard Tyrel Jackson, and the juniors will be relied on to make up some of that production.
Guards Joey Weingartner (Centerville, Ohio/Centerville) and Austin Schreck (Erlanger, Ken./Dixie Heights) are the top returning scorers from last season with 11.9 and 11.3 points per game, respectively. Schreck ranked second on the team in 2016-17 in both assists and rebounds per game with 2.5 helpers and 6.2 boards and was selected as an All-OAC Honorable Mention player. While Schreck has clearly had success in his first two years at Capital, Goodwin wants to see even more from him.
"He's going to have to be more aggressive from the perimeter," Goodwin said. "He's done a good job for us as far as posting up and making things happen 15 feet and in but he's a junior now and he's played a lot of basketball and he's going to have to do a lot more for us from the perimeter."
Weingartner missed the first few weeks of practice with an injury but has played in the preseason and will be key for a team that Goodwin wants to see more outside shooting from. Weingartner took 4.9 three-point attempts per game and hit 43 percent of those shots.
Three of the four returning sophomores played in all 26 games last season for the Crusaders and Dan Auble (Brecksville, Ohio/Brecksville) played in 25. Forward/center Tyler Jamison (Strongsville, Ohio/Strongsville) was a defensive force in his first collegiate season with averages of 6.9 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game.
"There aren't many back-to-the-basket players in college basketball anymore and T.J. is one," Goodwin said. "He deflects shots, intimidates shooters and did a great job rebounding. He's going to be a tremendous force in this league, hopefully this year but certainly as he goes through his career. He's an old-school, throwback kind of post guy and we're ecstatic to have him here."
Jamison helped anchor a Crusader defense that was the second-best squad in the conference last year in points allowed per game (73.8). Nate Boone (Columbus, Ohio/Bishop Watterson) and Ganiyu Yahaya (Allen, Ken./Wesley Christian) also will be role players after appearing in all of Capital's games as freshmen.
This year's six freshmen were all recruited to bring size and shooting to the team and compliment the players already in the program. All but one of the six are six-feet-five-inches tall.
Another player that Goodwin is hoping will add shooting to this year's team is the lone senior on the roster, Brennan Czuchran (Rayland, Ohio/Buckeye Local). Czuchran has been used as a spot-up shooter each of the past two years and may be called on more because of the team's personnel.
"He's certainly one of our best shooters in our program. He can shoot the ball," Goodwin said. "We need to play to his strength and his strength is catching and shooting and we expect him to be a contributor this year."
The Crusaders have once again chosen to challenge themselves early in the year and Goodwin said that it's no accident that his teams always play tough non-conference opponents, including two Division I teams in the preseason. Capital will open its regular season with La Roche College (20-8 in 2016-17) on Nov. 15 and will also play Wittenberg University (18-9) and Ohio Wesleyan University (21-7) before getting into OAC play.
The Purple and White will need to build some positive momentum in the non-conference season before taking on what will be a bunched and competitive OAC. Goodwin cited Marietta College, Baldwin Wallace University, the University of Mount Union and Ohio Northern University as teams that will be contending for the conference title.
Capital was picked to finish fifth in the OAC Preseason Coaches' Poll but Goodwin says that if the Crusaders can become an efficient offensive team, they can challenge for the conference title.
"We've had a very good first couple weeks of practice but we need some guys to step up and make some shots," Goodwin said. "We're not really fancy, we're just going to go out and play basketball and give our players freedom to go make plays."