MARION, Ind. – Despite a transition season for Indiana Wesleyan University men’s basketball the expectations remain high for the No. 6-ranked team in NAIA Division II.
Gone are 2,000-point scorers Lane Mahurin and Bob Peters but the Wildcats welcome in Kansas Jayhawk transfer Evan Maxwell and Indiana All-Stars Kyle Mangas and Grant Smith. The strong incoming class joins a stout returning core led by seniors Jacob Johnson and Ben Carlson.
Indiana Wesleyan will be tested immediately with a matchup against No. 1-ranked Cornerstone (Mich.) this Friday night in the first game of the 10th Annual Crossroads League/WHAC Challenge in Spring Arbor, Michigan.
Read below what head coach Greg Tonagel thinks about that game plus other developments leading to the season opening game tomorrow night.
Q: The 2017-18 season brings many changes to the team following the graduation of two 2,000 point scorers. Talk about the new faces on this year’s team and the roles they will play?
A: Evan Maxwell has the potential to be a dominant presence on both ends of the floor. He’s seen basketball at the highest level while at Kansas. We are counting on his experience to add to our team’s youth. Kyle Mangas and Grant Smith were recognized as two of the top players in the entire state of Indiana last season by being named to the Indiana All-Star team. Kyle is a savvy high IQ player while Grant is a dynamic player who plays with great athleticism. Sam McCracken is a player not many know about. In just months I have seen Sam improve more than any other player I have coached. As he continues to be ‘all in’, the sky is the limit for Sam. He is long, athletic, and very bouncy.
Q: How has the team looked during preseason?
A: More than in recent memory, it is going to be a process with this group. We have so many new players that we will be relying upon. That takes times to develop. We are committed to giving this team space to flourish and grow into the high potential that we envision.
Q: Share your team motto or slogan this year?
A: We are learning the power for growth that lies in the pattern of Hunger—Habits—Humility. Our dreams and desires put our lives into motion. It is our habits that set the long-term trajectory of these dreams into a future reality. Once a person has both of these he will undoubtedly be successful. However, we are called to follow Christ’s example of humility by leveraging our gifts for the benefit of others. A life of self-sacrifice for others represents true success.
Q: What has your team continued to grow in their faith?
A: We are seeing these young men trade in the pursuit of me for three—God first, others second, and themselves third. We are seeing this happen as a result of real and authentic conversations that we are partaking in. Guys have been free to share testimonies of both victory and struggle. In each journey of faith a unique story of transformation is being written.
Q: Tell us about your schedule this year, which looks to be challenging once again?
A: Nothing like playing the No. 1 team in the country right off the bat. The CL/WHAC has always been a great barometer for us in terms of getting a feel for the potential of our team. We play at IU-East which has become a good rivalry against a National Tournament quality team.
Q: Where do the Wildcats fit in the ultra-competitive Crossroads League?
A: This is a rugged competitive league. There is a lot of depth to the Crossroads League this year. You have to defend to compete in this league. As we figure that out we can compete with the best in the league.