Men's Basketball Tips Off Season Friday Night at Westminster (Pa.); LISTEN LIVE

Head coach Mike Fuline (Photo by Ryan Baker)
Head coach Mike Fuline (Photo by Ryan Baker)

Mount Union opens the 2012-13 men's basketball season Friday, Nov. 16 at 8 pm against regional rival Westminster (Pa.) as part of the Buzz Ridl Classic in New Wilmington, Pa.

Friday night's game will feature a LIVE AUDIO webcast right here.

The Purple Raiders continue play at the tournament on Saturday against Thiel (Pa.).  The other games in the tournament involve fellow Ohio Athletic Conference Muskingum that plays Thiel on Friday at 6 pm and Westminster Saturday at 4 pm.

MOUNT UNION PREVIEW

"Build it and they will come." -- The line taken from the classic sports movie "Field of Dreams" could also hang over Mike Fuline's office as the second year Mount Union men's basketball coach hopes that building around a young core of talent that wins will come for the Purple Raiders.

The centerpiece of that core is sophomore guard Nate Jacubec. The reigning Ohio Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year averaged nearly 12 points and four rebounds a game and will be expected to pick up some of the slack of departed all-conference player and conference leading scorer Jimmy Wood.

Behind Jacubec are sophomores Stevie Griffin and Clayton Patton along with a group of talented freshmen headlined by Cody Dillon, Evan Keeslar, Taylor Moore, Jarrett Ruffin and Kyle Scelza.

Seniors in guard Justen Little and forward Matt Kiger along with junior guard T.J. Gillespie provide needed experience and leadership.

The young Raiders will have to grow up in a hurry as six of the team's first seven games are on the road with home opener Tuesday, Nov. 20 at 8 pm against Pitt-Greensburg at the McPherson Academic and Athletic Complex.

WESTMINSTER PREVIEW

Westminster returns all five starters and three key reserve players.  The Titans will look to two-year starters senior guard Doug Smith and junior guard Anthony Thomasto lead the offense. Last year, Smith led the team in scoring, averaging 13.7 points per game, while Thomas averaged 13.3.

Senior forward Adam Carswell returns for his final season after he led the team in minutes (31.6/game), starts (26), rebounds (6.4/game), blocks (25), and field goal percentage a season ago. Carswell's .571 field goal percentage was third in the PAC. The other two returning starters include senior guard Ron Martino, who averaged 9.7 points and 1.9 assists per game, and sophomore guard Ben Donlow, who contributed 10.3 points and 5.4 rebounds per contest. 

Key reserves for the Titans will include senior guard Reuben King, junior guard Kendall Hunter, and sophomore center Mark Hockenberry.

THIEL PREVIEW

Seventh-year head coach Tim Loomis, once again has high hopes for Thiel for the 2012-13 season.

The Tomcats are coming off a 2011-12 campaign that saw them finish 18-8 overall and 13-3 in conference play, securing the number two seed in the PAC tournament. 

The 2012-13 edition of Thiel basketball features nine letter-winners from a year ago, led by one of their five seniors, returning all-conference honoree Anthony Harvey.

Harvey started all 24 games a year ago, having his most productive season to date at Thiel, finishing third on the team in scoring (12.5 points/game), fourth in the PAC in free throw percentage (.828) and fifth in the PAC in steals (1.68/game).

Other returning seniors are forwards Austin Forbes, Chace McKinney and Ladell Trotty, as well as guard R.J. Brownlee.

The freshmen class is one that Loomis calls "the best, in terms of talent, that we've brought in since I've been here."

Leading that group is Khari Bess, who will see time at point guard, while Marquis Jackson, Darian Anthony and Charlie Thomas will get considerable playing time at the guard positions.

COACHES

Mike Fuline (Kent State '98) is 11-15 entering his second season as head coach at Mount Union after a successful career at the high school level that included winning the 2010 OHSAA Division I State Championship at Massillon Jackson. 

Kevin Siroki (Westminster, Pa. '93) is in his first season as coach at his alma mater. Siroki previously was the athletic director and the head men's basketball coach at Galen University in Belize, Central America. Siroki, the team MVP as a senior and three-time letterwinner at point guard for the Titans in 1990-93, guided Westminster to a 58-29 record during his four years as an undergraduate.

Tim Loomis (Lock Haven, Pa. '76) is in his seventh year as head coach at Thiel.  He most recently served as the head basketball coach at Kennedy Catholic High School (2001-2006), sports an extensive resume that has included stops at both the NCAA Division I and II levels. He served as the head men's basketball coach at Florida Atlantic University from 1989-1995. Prior to his appointment at Florida Atlantic, Loomis was an assistant at NCAA Division I Penn State University from 1986-1989 and the head men's basketball coach at NCAA Division II California University of Pennsylvania from 1980-1986.

MOUNT UNION PLAYER NOTES

Nate Jacubec - So., G, Struthers/Struthers

  • Played in all 26 games and started 25 as a freshman
  • 2012 OAC Freshman of the Year
  • Second on team in scoring (11.8), assists (45) and three-pointers (42) a year ago
  • Led the OAC in free throw shooting (.821)
  • Career-high 21 points at Otterbein (1/21/12) and at John Carroll (1/25/12)
  • Career-high 5 three-pointers at John Carroll (1/25/12)
  • Career-high 8 rebounds vs. Wilmington (12/17/11)
  • Career-high with 5 assists at Heidelberg (2/18/12)

T.J. Gillespie - Jr., G, Toledo/St. John's

  • Played in 24 games and started six a year ago
  • Fourth on team in scoring last year averaging 7.2 ppg
  • Career-high 20 points vs. Ohio Northern (1/8/11)
  • Career-high 5 assists vs. Otterbein (1/22/11)

Matt Kiger - Sr., F, Williamstown, W.Va./Williamstown

  • Played in 24 games and started 10 a year ago
  • Averaging 4.1 ppg and 2.5 rpg
  • Led the team in field goal percentage (.596)
  • Career-high 20 points at Otterbein (12/4/10) and vs. Waynesburg (12/30/10)
  • Career-high 9 rebounds vs. Waynesburg (12/30/10)

Justen Little - Sr., G, Galion/Galion

  • Played in all 26 games and started 23 games a year ago
  • Fourth in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio (4.0) a year ago
  • Ranked second in the conference in assists (3.4)
  • Career-high 15 points at Heidelberg (2/18/12)
  • Career-high 7 rebounds at Ohio Northern (1/7/12)
  • Career-high 7 assists vs. Otterbein (12/3/11) and vs. Wilmington (12/17/11)

Jimmy Darnley - Jr., F, Canton/GlenOak

  • Came off the bench in 19 games a year ago
  • Career-high 5 points at Ohio Northern (2/12/11)
  • Career-high 4 rebounds vs. Wilmington (2/5/11)