2005-06 Season Preview
Bluffton looks to compete in always tough Heartland Conference
By Bill Hanefeld Jr., sports information director
November 10, 2005
The 2005-06 installment of the Bluffton University men's basketball team looks to build on the success it fashioned over the past two years as the players have blended their talents to become a cohesive unit that is capable of competing each night it hits the hardwood. Since entering the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference in 1998, the on-the-court success of the Beaver program has not been as consistent as Coach Guy Neal would like to see. This is evidenced by a second place finish in 2000-2001 (one victory from a conference co-championship) followed by 'competitive rebuilding' seasons from 2002-2004 and a return to the thick of the conference race in 2004-2005. Neal believes that the program could be in the best position ever to string together a series of very good seasons.
Replacing the strong leadership of 2004-05 captains Bryce Beilharz and Nathan Chivington was a concern entering the 2005-06 season. Their leadership provided the stable foundation that allowed the Beavers to experience success both on and off the court. Beilharz and Chivington were role models on the floor, in the locker room and in the classroom. "It is difficult to be a championship caliber team without leadership, maturity, chemistry and a strong work ethic. This combination of intangibles, along with talent, makes for a championship formula. The work ethic and focus of our 2005-06 captains Scott Bergman and Eric Sweet along with all of the upperclassmen from last spring through this October has eliminated much of my concern. These guys have really been on a mission to get ready for the season," said Coach Neal.
Although the 2005-06 team has worked hard to, in Neal's words, "Be in a position to be very successful," he has been quick to warn the players that, "Just because you have put yourselves in a position to be successful you still need to work each and every day to make that success a reality." While the team must make defending and rebounding a priority, Neal believes that they may be the strongest and most physically fit team he has coached at Bluffton. Neal also feels that this team has great potential offensively.
"The combination of quality and parity in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference is unmatched by any Division III conference in the country," explained Coach Neal. "If I had to select a pre-season favorite, I would pick Transylvania. However, each of the remaining seven teams has the potential to work their way through the conference schedule and end up as the HCAC champion. I sincerely believe that we proved at the end of last season that we deserved to be one of the top four teams in our league. We have worked to take that a step further this season."
Senior captains Scott Bergman (Elmore/Woodmore) and Eric Sweet (Ottawa/Ottawa-Glandorf) have been an integral part of the rebuilding process over the past three years. Bergman, who averaged 22 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game, was the 2004-05 HCAC Player-of-the-year and has recently been named to 'Street and Smith's' Division III pre-season All-America team. Sweet wreaks havoc on opponents in many ways as he put up 11.9 points per game, 5.9 rebounds per game, 43 assists and 48 blocks last season. Seniors Joe Duzan (Dublin/Dublin Scioto) (1.5 ppg) and Darren Clark (Plain City/Jonathon Alder) (2.9 ppg) provide Bluffton with experience and depth at the guard position.
Neal will count on his talented junior class to provide even more experience and leadership this season. Mike Anthony (Ohio City/Delphos St. John's) and Eric Schwieterman (St. Henry/St. Henry) both started for the Beavers as sophomores. Anthony, an athletic forward who averaged 11.5 points and 4.0 rebounds per game, causes match-up problems for opponents in the post. Point guard Schwieterman sets the table for Bluffton as he dished out 92 assists and came up with 34 steals in 2004-05.
Junior forward David Patch (Minster/Minster) (3.8 ppg, 2 rpg) also returns having played significantly the past two seasons. Sam Seggerson (Columbus/St. Francis De Sales), Tony Mass (Tiffin/Calvert) and Tom Heil (Stow/Archbishop Hoban) will be prepared to play valuable minutes in the backcourt this year while Ricky Reucher (Toledo/Central Catholic) provides depth up front for the Beavers.
Sophomore P.J. Juenger (Loveland/Archbishop Moeller) (2.6 ppg, 1.6 rpg) gives Bluffton another inside presence as he will be looked to for both scoring and rebounding this season. A talented and deep group of freshmen will benefit from the experience and leadership of the upperclassmen as they compete for both junior varsity and varsity playing time.
While the 2005-06 edition of Bluffton University men's basketball realizes that it won't sneak up on opponents this year, it is prepared to do the work necessary to make it happen.