Overall Rank: #87*
Conference Rank: #4 Horizon
2007-08: 22-14, 9-9, 4th
2007-08 postseason: CBI
Following a relatively successful first season in the Horizon League, Valparaiso looked like they could compete for a title this year. But that was in April. By August, the expectations took a big hit with the transfer of Bryan Bouchie and the departure of Samuel Haanpaa to play professionally overseas. Yet, Coach Homer Drew still has some seasoned veterans and some talented underclassmen who are ready to fill the void and lead the Crusaders back to the postseason.
Haanpaa was a unique player. At 6-8, he was a guard who had a nice looking stroke. Last year he hit 43.0 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc and he was a very effective shooter. He could have developed into a dominant player if he was more willing to be aggressive getting to the basket, but Haanpaa’s shooting will certainly be missed. Bouchie was a decent scorer and a solid rebounder out of the backcourt and his leadership could have been used this year. The news in the backcourt gets worse. The top two scorers on the team were Shawn Huff and Jarryd Loyd. Huff did a little bit of everything from the wing and averaged 12.6 points and 4.5 rebounds during his senior campaign. Little used Matt Bennett and Calum MacLeod have also wrapped up their careers at Valparaiso.
With the unexpected departures, the large group of newcomers will have to play a bigger role than expected. Point guard Erik Buggs is amazingly quick and garnered a McDonald’s All-American nomination. His speed and defense could lead to the 5-11 Memphis, Tennessee product making an impact off the bench this year. Logan Jones could work his way into the starting lineup. The 6-1 shooting guard can score in bunches and has the most potential among the freshmen to help replace the outside shooting left behind by Huff, Loyd and Haanpaa. De’Andre Haskins, Andrew Ferry and walk-on Nick Shelton will add more inexperienced depth on the perimeter. There is only one returning forward on the roster and that means Benjamin Fumey and Cameron Witt will have to play a role. Fumey redshirted last year and that experience will help the 6-8 forward fit right into his role on the Crusaders. His international experience with Germany’s youth teams cannot hurt either. Witt has international experience too. The Australian can run well for his size and can score from everywhere on the floor. But he is not just a big guy who shoots, Witt can mix it up in the paint and grab rebounds and block shots.
Who to Watch:
The backcourt does have four players returning who have starting experience. Jake Diebler is not a big scorer, but he did average 2.6 assists and less than one turnover per game last year and plays great defense. Brandon McPherson will be running the show. The 6-1 guard also is the best returning outside shooter and will have to use his three-point shooting ability more than he did last year. If McPherson’s shot is not falling, somebody else’s better be. Michael Rogers and Howard Little had decent freshmen campaigns. Rogers, at 6-6, proved to be an effective rebounder and his size could allow the team to spend some time in a four guard lineup like they did last year. Little did not see as much playing time as Rogers, but the 6-4 guard will be asked to play a bigger role during the 2008-2009 campaign.
The man in the middle of the four guard lineup last year was Urule Igbavboa. He will be this year too. The 6-9 senior averaged 11.0 points and a team high 7.3 rebounds last year and should not have much trouble matching those numbers again this year. If Fumey or Witt can develop into decent scorers, it will free up some space for Igbavboa. If one of those two newcomers can play some defense and block a few shots, it would drastically help the Crusaders on the defensive side of the ball. However, the most important thing to watch out for this year is the outside shooting. This team will be more athletic than last seasons group, but that might not lead to a better season if nobody can knock down shots.
Projected Post-season Tournament: none
Projected Starting Five:
Brandon McPherson, Senior, Guard, 10.1 points per game
Jake Diebler, Senior, Guard, 4.9 points per game
Logan Jones, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
Michael Rogers, Sophomore, Guard, 3.3 points per game
Urule Igbavboa, Senior, Forward, 11.0 points per game