2011-12 Men's Basketball Preview
The Trinity Tigers will have the leadership 13 veteran players when they take the floor Nov. 16 at Schreiner University in Kerrville, Texas.
Led by 13th-year head coach Pat Cunningham, Trinity also returns four starters from last season’s squad which sported a 16-11 overall record, and an 11-5 mark in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference.
“Our team this year will look to play hard and play together,” said Coach Cunningham, who was named a Guardian of the Game by the National Association of Basketball Coaches last season. “We are going to be a different team this year. Our sophomores (nine returnees) will see some playing time. The goal for our team each year is to the win the SCAC Western Division, and win the conference tournament.”
The conference head coaches picked the Tigers to repeat as Western Division champions for the second straight year.
Trinity defeated Rhodes 62-42 in the 2011 SCAC Tournament quarterfinals, and was edged 58-56 by DePauw in the semifinals, at Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss. The Tigers entered the SCAC Tournament with a six-game winning streak.
Two seniors graduated, including three-time All-SCAC player Luke Caldarera, and Sam Dworkin.
This season’s Tigers will make their home debut Dec. 16 by hosting the University of Dallas, a new member of the SCAC.
Senior guard Ryan Beall (6-4, 185; Santa Barbara, Calif./Dos Pueblos) joined Kitzinger on the All-SCAC Honorable Mention Team. Beall was the Tigers top assists man, with an average of 3.4 per match-up. He scored 5.3 points and grabbed 4.0 rebounds per contest, along with stealing the ball 42 times.
A returning offensive threat is sophomore guard Robert Kitzinger (6-7, 175; Carmel, Ind./Carmel). Kitzinger, who scored 10.7 points per game, was elected to the All-SCAC Honorable Mention Team as a first-year player. He also had nearly three rebounds per game, shot .448 from the field, and .399 in 3-point range.
Sophomore forward Zach Lambert (6-4, 205; Frisco, Texas/Centennial) shot .428 from the field, scored 6.6 points per game, pulled in 3.8 rebounds each outing, and registered 35 steals and eight blocks. The man with the height is sophomore post Clarke Allan (6-8, 220; Austin, Texas/Westlake), with a shooting percentage of .533, and an average of 3.6 points and 2.8 rebounds per game. He also blocked eight shots.
Trinity’s bench is solid, including senior Gil Melchior (6-6, 195; Contern, Luxembourg/Lycee Tenchnique Michel Lucius). Melchior, A solid and dependable forward, had three points and two rebounds per game.
Two junior forwards will see a lot of action this year. Heath Hopson (6-4, 195; Lampasas, Texas/Lampasas) shot .573, scored 5.1 points per game, had 2.3 rebounds, and blocked eight shots. John Boxberger (6-6, 215; Austin, Texas/St. Andrew’s), added 2.2 points per game.
Sophomore forward Jonathan Wilt (6-6, 205; Chandler, Ariz./Hamilton) shot .436, scored 4.7 points and accounted for 2.6 rebounds per game. Matt Feldman (5-10, 160; Honolulu/Punahou), a sophomore guard, was just behind Beall in steals, with 41. Feldman produced 3.4 points and two assists each game.
Joe Shotland (6-1, 175; Dallas/Bishop Lynch) and Matt Selling (6-3, 185; Phoenix/Phoenix Country Day) are returning sophomore guards. The post position will also have sophomores John LaVanway (6-6, 225; Chandler, Ariz./Brophy College Prep) and Jacob Cukjati (6-7, 210; San Antonio/Antonian).
“I think we will be better offensively,” said coach Cunningham, Trinity basketball’s winningest coach, with 233 victories. “Last year, we did play good defense, but we can play better. I have always said that the trademark of championship teams is that they play good defense.”
Trinity scored 63.5 points per game, and yielded 60. The Tigers shot .433 from the field, and opponents hit .417. On the boards, the Tigers pulled down 32.1 rebounds per game, and the opposition had 31.4. Trinity’s opponents committed 15.4 turnovers per game, to 12.7 for the Tigers.
Three new guards are expected to make strong contributions to the team, including William Young (5-10, 160; Houston/St. John’s School). Young transferred from Arizona State, where he was a redshirt freshman. At St. John’s, Young averaged 18 points and 8.5 assists. He is a three-time All-Southwest Preparatory Conference honoree, and a two-time Texas Association of Basketball Coaches All-State selection.
Matt Hopper (6-4, 180; Lone Tree, Colo./Rock Canyon) averaged 16 points and six rebounds his senior year. Hopper was elected to the Colorado Class 5A All-State Honorable Mention Team, and to the Academic All-State Team.
Craig Saltarelli (5-11, 165; Boulder, Colo./Fairview) contributed 14 points per game to the Colorado Class 5A runner-up team. Saltarelli was named to the state tournament team his junior year, and made the Academic All-State Team on two occasions.
Tiger assistant coach Ross Burt is excited about the combination of returnees and newcomers, and their skill levels.
“I like our overall team length and versatility,” said coach Burt, a former Tiger standout, in his sixth season on the Trinity staff. “I strongly believe a majority of our players can play multiple positions on the court.”
Following the Dec. 16 home opener with the University of Dallas, the Tigers will play 11 more games on the friendly court of Sams Gymnasium, with eight consisting of SCAC match-ups.
The week of Dec. 20-22 will be a busy time at the William H. Bell Athletic Center, as Trinity will host the National Invitation Tournament, consisting of 13 NCAA Division III teams.
The SCAC Championship Tournament is slated for Feb. 24-26 at Birmingham, Ala., at Birmingham-Southern College. The winner gets an automatic bid to the NCAA playoffs.