Basketball hungry for repeat

The California Lutheran University men’s basketball team is looking forward to this upcoming season after finishing in a three-way tie for first place in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference last year.

“We finished 18-7 last year, so we had a pretty good record and we are hoping to go even further this year,” senior point guard Dan Wade said.

This season the Kingsmen are without four of their key players from last year, including All-West Region selections Coltrane Powdrill and Arik Smith. However they have 11 returners and have added eight new additions to this season’s roster.

Wade is among one of the returners who the Kingsmen are looking to for production this season. He was third on the team in scoring, averaging 8.5 points per game, and is a long distance threat as well, making 33 three-point shots last season, according to clusports.com.

Other key returners include seniors Lanaki Apele who had a 56.6 shooting percentage last season, and Connor McGuire who led the team in steals (34) and blocks (20).

Graduate student Jeremy Sulker-Hall returns to the team after a year off in 2014.  Sulker-Hall averaged 6.2 points and 4.1 rebounds in 2013

“We lost a lot of players who played a vital role on the team,” Head Coach Rich Rider said. “It left somewhat of a hole in the team but it won’t be as deep because we have some good players joining us.”

New additions to the team include transfer junior guards Adrian Francis from Antelope Valley College and David Abittan from Cabrillo College. Francis is taking over the shooting guard position previously filled by Smith and is also taking on a leadership role.

“Playing for Cal Lutheran I definitely have more of a leadership role than I did at my previous college, so I try to pick up on as many things as I can from leaders like Dan [Wade] and Naki [Apele] who are always there to give me advice when I need it,” Francis said.

“Adrian is going to be playing a vital role as one of our starters,” Rider said. “He is still adjusting to his role but he’s doing a nice job and will make a nice contribution to the team.”

The Kingsmen have also welcomed freshmen, Robert Ambartsumyan, Frank Calcaterra, Austin Cole, Ryan Heiligenthal, Justin Kam, Coby de Laveaga, and Michael Orlich, all hoping to make their marks this season .

“The camaraderie on this team is very strong,” Rider said. “This is a very close-knit group. They practice hard and hang out together which helps the overall dynamic of the team.”

The Kingsmen had their first go at playing together in their exhibition game on Nov.  3 against News Release.  In the scrimmage match, News Release defeated the Kingsmen 91 to 67.

“We played a very experienced team and it was a perfect team to play for our scrimmage because we saw what we need to work on as we get closer to the start of the season,” Rider said.

The Kingsmen are using this match as a learning experience to prepare for their first game of the official season on Nov. 19.

“We went out there and saw what we needed to work on,” Wade said. “We’re still figuring things out and learning our strengths and weaknesses and just trying to improve as we get closer to the season.”

The returners, transfers and freshmen players are all ready to do their part to have an even more successful season than last year and continue to improve throughout the season in order to have a shot at the NCAA championship in early 2016.

“Being a part of this team is exciting,” Francis said. “I see a lot of potential within us and I think we have the ability to do really well this season.”

Catch the season opener for the Kingsmen Nov. 19 at 7:30 p.m. in the Gilbert Arena.

Islamiyah Arogundade
Staff Writer
Published November 11th, 2015