Duhawks open basketball season: Men utilize defense and speed to tally their 1st win at home
The men’s basketball team opened their season on Monday night with a 77-63 home victory against Edgewood College. In spite of some first-game jitters from the recruiting class, the Duhawks played well against a relentless opponent. The team’s performance was on par with what head coach Greg Gorton is expecting this season, but there is always room for improvement.
In addition to the high expectations a coach holds at the start of a season, coach Gorton is most anticipating a new beginning.
“I’m looking forward to having a fresh start. We have a great young team, a lot of new faces and a lot of high-energy guys. The challenge we have as coaches is trying to teach the game to guys who don’t have a lot of experience. It’s been fun and rewarding, and I expect us to get better as the season goes on,” Gorton said.
The Duhawks will face some tough competition this season in the form of 2015 Iowa Conference Champions University of Dubuque and Illinois Wesleyan. Both of these opponents will make a trip to the AWC, but the Duhawks will need more than home court advantage to secure a victory. Coach Gorton explained that Loras’ strategy this season will focus on their defensive efforts.
“Our defense is going to be our calling card; it’s going to be our identity. We have got to be able to defend people. I think we’ve added some quickness and some fresh legs in guys that are really hungry. I think our identity will be how we can guard. We will get our road wins based on how we play defense,” said Gorton.
Returning senior Mirko Grcic will be leading this defensive effort. Last season the Lake Zurich, IL product was named honorable mention All-Iowa Conference. Grcic will be a powerful player in the front-court for the Duhawks. In the 2014-15 season he topped the conference in rebounding grabbing 11.1 per game. He recorded a career-high 26 boards in last year’s season opener against Edgewood. In addition to his rebounding success, Grcic can also rally some points. He averaged 13.8 points per game which ranked second among the Duhawks last year. Grcic will be a vital player for Loras this season.
Another returning Duhawk that Loras will rely on for success is junior Justin VanWambeke. The Machesney Park, IL native transferred to Loras as a sophomore and quickly became a member of the starting lineup. VanWambeke averaged 11.4 points per game shooting .439 from the field.
Coach Gorton sees a lot of potential for Grcic and VanWambeke this season.
“Those are two guys that we are relying on heavily to help the new faces adapt to college basketball,” Gorton said.
Grcic and VanWambeke will serve as the captains for this year’s team alongside senior Sean Bourke. The Conant High School graduate shot .714 from the field last season. The Duhawks will look to Bourke as a solid source of leadership. His knowledge of the game and care for his team will guide Loras in what looks to be a promising season.
The Duhawks will play a string of non-conference matchups before opening Iowa Conference play on January 6, 2016 in the AWC.