Returners and rookies rally going into postseason

Playing hard and together will be the key for the men’s basketball program as the end of the season approaches. While there are some standout players, the cohesiveness of the team as a whole is what will bring the Duhawks success.

Loras is currently tied for second in the Iowa Conference with Simpson, just behind the University of Dubuque. Strong performances from returners, as well as deep talent in the recruiting class, has gotten the team to this point. Even though the season is coming to a close with only four regular season conference games remaining, there is a lot to look forward to from the Duhawks.

First on the list is a career accomplishment from senior Mirko Grcic. With an average of 17 points per game, it is safe to say that Grcic is more than likely to reach 1,000 career points this season.

As of Loras’ game on Saturday, Grcic is only 10 points away from the mark. He will be the first Duhawk to join the 1,000 Point Club since 2008 and the 39th in the history of the program. Grcic ranks fifth in the conference in scoring and third in rebounding with 8.3 boards per game. Although this is an incredible personal achievement, the Lake Zurich, Ill. native is more focused on the success of his team.

“It is a nice accomplishment, but my overall goal is to win a conference championship. Right now I’m focusing on winning our last four games and not worrying about my own personal stat line,” Grcic said about reaching 1,000 points.

This statement is a perfect example of the leadership Grcic brings to the court. His skill and knowledge about the game of basketball has been a crucial influence for the Duhawks this season, but he is not alone in terms of Duhawks with experience.

Junior Justin VanWambeke has been a dominant offensive threat for Loras this season. As a sophomore, VanWambeke averaged 11.4 points per game. This season he ranks third in the IIAC with 20.1 points per game. He has recorded eight games of more than 25 points, including a 35-point performance in an 84-61 victory over Luther earlier this season. The Machesney Park, Ill. product also leads the conference in 3-point percentage with a .486 clip from behind the arc. The combination of VanWambeke and Grcic is a force to be reckoned with.

While these returners are providing great experience and leadership, there is also a lot of talent to be seen from the recruitment class. Freshmen Michael Mims and Demond George are virtually unstoppable. The duo find the most success from beyond the perimeter as Mims shoots 40.9 percent from the 3-point line and George 37.9 percent. Even though these players typically come in the game off the bench, they make their presence known on the court and have become crucial elements to the team.

Although these players have exhibited standout performances, it is their ability to play as a team that is most important. The combination of their efforts has led the Loras to an 11-10 overall record, 6-4 in conference. In order to achieve Grcic’s goal of winning a conference championship, however, there is still work to be done.

“Right now we are trying play the best basketball we can play before the conference tournament starts. As long as we play hard and play together each and every night, I think we have a great chance of winning the league,” Grcic said.

The Duhawks travel to Storm Lake, Iowa on Saturday to face Buena Vista after topping the Beavers 82-76 earlier this season.

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