Veterans, newcomers should help Benedictine return to top of NAC South.
November 9, 2009
Dave Beyer, Sports Infomation Coordinator
Most people hate reruns when it comes to television, but on the basketball court Benedictine University Head Coach Keith Bunkenburg would like nothing more than a repeat performance of last season for his 2009-10 team. The Eagles were 19-8 in 2008-09 and won the Northern Athletics Conference (NAC) South Division championship.
Benedictine will open the 2009-10 season this coming Sunday (Nov. 15) at 3:00 p.m. versus perennial NCAA Division III power Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington.
Bunkenburg – who is entering his 15th season at the Benedictine helm and has produced winning records in 10 of those previous campaigns – seems to have plenty of reasons to be optimistic. His 2009-10 edition of Eagles’ basketball welcomes back four starters and 13 returners overall from last year’s roster.
That fact did not escape the other coaches around the NAC, either, as Benedictine was installed as the favorite to again win the South Division in the annual pre-season coaches’ poll. But Bunkenburg does not feel that will create any extra pressure for his team.
“There is no doubt that we do have the proverbial ‘bulls eye’ on us as the favorite,” said Bunkenburg. “But polls are not what determines the championship or gets you to the NCAA tournament, which is our goal this season.
“The games are still played on the court and everyone is equal in the standings right now. We need to come out and be ready to play every game, because if the NAC has proven anything in its first few years it is that any conference team is capable of winning on any given day.”
On paper, the fact that the Eagles lost just one starter from 2008-09 seems like a good thing, until you consider that the one player was NAC “Player of the Year” Jared Bailey. Bailey’s graduation left a hole in Benedictine’s coffers to the tune of 17.5 points and 5.2 rebounds per game, along with an 85 percent free throw percentage.
“You don’t just replace a Jared Bailey,” explained Bunkenburg. “Having a player of his caliber, we did some things a certain way to utilize him. Now, we just have to shift and make adjustments to feature some of the other very skilled players we have back in the fold.”
Heading that cast of returnees are juniors Cameron Snelling, a guard, and forward Dan Klecan. Snelling averaged 11.1 points and a team-leading 7.6 rebounds per game. Snelling also shot a cool 51 percent from the floor and had 15 blocks on his way to NAC honorable mention status as a sophomore.
Klecan, who missed most of 2007-08 with an injury, bounced back last season by averaging 10.7 points and 4.5 boards per game, appearing in 26 of the team’s 27 contests. With Bailey’s graduation, Klecan is the team’s top long distance threat after connecting on 36-of-109 (33 percent) last season.
Sophomore Nate Green was selected to the NAC’s “All-Freshman Team” last year and worked his way into a starting role by mid-season. Green averaged 5.7 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. He also shot nearly 42 percent from the floor.
Junior A.J. Brown and Snelling were the only two Eagles to start all 27 games last year. Brown had workman-like totals of 8.4 points and 4.1 rebounds per game, all while hitting 50 percent from the floor.
Seniors Michael Fahey (in his third season with BU) and Rob Bridgeman, along with junior Brian Genslinger, were three of the Eagles’ top reserves to give Benedictine its depth in 2008-09. The 6-foot-5 Bridgeman (5.5 points and2.5 rebounds per game) led the team with 18 blocked shots, while the 6-7 Genslinger provided problems for opposing offenses both inside and outside.
Fahey, a guard, averaged 6.0 points per game and is another threat from beyond the three-point arc. Of the 51 field goals made by Fahey on the year, 32 were treys (which he shot at an average of 37 percent).
Among the team’s newcomers, the Eagles will have three talented transfers who Bunkenburg feels will be able to have an immediate impact. The trio includes sophomore guard Bradley Bruno (St. Mary’s College, Minn.), junior guard Jerrell Tribble (Harvey C.C.) and junior forward Anthony Dobson (Johnson County C.C., Kans.). Bruno is the son of DePaul women’s basketball head coach Doug Bruno and Dobson was a part of a junior college national championship team at J.C.C.C.
Of course, Bunkenburg knows as well as anyone that no matter what each individual is studying in college, for the 2009-10 team to achieve success all his players going to have to become “chemistry majors”…at least on the court.
“You can have all the numbers and accolades and honors in the world and if we don’t play as a unit and have chemistry it will mean nothing,” explained Bunkenburg. “We need our veterans to incorporate the newcomers into the system, as well as for the newcomers to be ready and willing to work hard and learn.
“If we can do those things, then we have the formula for a repeat of last season, and maybe even better.”
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Benedictine University is located in Lisle, Illinois, just 25 miles west of Chicago, and has branch campuses in Springfield, Illinois, and Mesa, Arizona. Founded as a Catholic university in 1887, Benedictine enrolls nearly 10,000 students in 56 undergraduate and 19 graduate programs. Forbes magazine named Benedictine among "America's Top Colleges" for the sixth consecutive year in 2016. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (hlcommission.org). For more information, contact (630) 829-6300, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit ben.edu.