Western Michigan Broncos
Overall Rank: #97
Conference Rank: #3 MAC
2007-08: 20-12, 12-4, 1st West
2007-08 postseason: none
Western Michigan and Coach Steve Hawkins have a nice mixture of veterans and talented youngsters. Despite dominating the West division of the Mid-American Conference last year, the Broncos were considered inferior to the most of the teams in the East. WMU should win the west again, but they have some work to do to be considered among the top teams in the conference.
And most of that work needs to be done up front where the Broncos lost a ton of experience, including Joe Reitz. The 6-7 center tallied 15.0 points and 7.9 rebounds per contest during his senior campaign. His leadership and toughness will be missed just as much as his production. To prove how tough Reitz really is, he continued the tradition of MAC basketball players heading to the NFL and spent his summer at the Baltimore Ravens camp. Part-time starter Andrew Hershberger rarely put up big numbers, but he did the dirty work under the basket. Dan Hess only saw action in four games before heading out of the program last year. Derek Fracalossi did not really play under the basket, but he was a 6-5 wing who could handle a multitude of positions. Guard Silver Laku has also wrapped up his collegiate career after seeing limited action in 2007-2008.
At the least the newcomers will have to provide a majority of the depth in the frontcourt. Flenard Whitfield, Muhammed Conteh, LaMarcus Lowe, Luke Adaline and Juston Hairston will provide Coach Hawkins plenty of options. The 6-7, 220 pound Whitfield is a solid athlete who can give the team a tenacious rebounder and a decent shot blocker. Conteh, also 6-7, has a huge wingspan and enough toughness to help replace Reitz under the basket. Lowe has more size, or at 6-11 and 215 pounds, more height, and should at least be able to help out on the glass right away. However, Lowe’s basketball experience is quite limited and he might need some time before he is ready to contribute. Normally Hairston would not be mentioned with the big guys, but the 6-5 forward can play power forward in the MAC if necessary. And it might be necessary. Hairston, who redshirted last year, has enough toughness to battle under the basket, but his future will be getting to the basket from the wing. Demetrius Ward, Mike Douglas and Troy Peter will join the backcourt. Ward is arguably the best player of this group. The 6-2 combo guard can put points up in a hurry and it will be difficult to keep him on the bench. Point guard Mike Douglas will learn the ropes off the bench this year, but he is expected to be starting in 2009-2010.
Who to Watch:
If it was not for all the experience already in the backcourt, Ward and Douglas could be starting. They could be starting later this season anyway, but for now they will push the returning players. David Kool’s starting job is safe. The 6-3 junior averaged 16.3 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists last year. Now as an upperclassman, this is Kool’s team. His gang on the perimeter consists of Andre Ricks, Shawntes Gary, Michael Redell and Derek Drews. Gary is expected to emerge as a prolific scorer after averaging 8.8 points per game last year. He is a superb rebounder from the wing. Redell will be the guy who gets the scorers the ball. The senior point guard is not much of a scorer, but he is a decent ballhandler and floor leader. If Douglas shows up on campus ready to play, Redell’s minutes are not safe. Ideally, Drews is a small forward. He is only 6-5 and lacks the interior play to be extremely effective at the four spot. What he does, and he does it very well, is shoot the three-pointer. Since he does have some size and is such a dangerous, albeit streaky, scoring threat, he will see plenty of time at the four spot.
If Drews or any of the newcomers struggle at the power forward spot, it will be a difficult situation for the Broncos. Martelle McLemore has some experience, but not much. Neither does center Donald Lawson who must replace Reitz under the basket. Lawson is a good shotblocker, which immediately makes him a much, much different type of player than Reitz, but somebody still has to score around the basket or Western Michigan’s talented guards will not have any space to operate.
Projected Post-season Tournament: none
Projected Starting Five:
Michael Redell, Senior, Guard, 4.7 points per game
David Kool, Junior, Guard, 16.3 points per game
Shawntes Gary, Senior, Guard, 8.8 points per game
Derek Drews, Senior, Forward, 6.3 points per game
Donald Lawson, Junior, Center, 2.3 points per game