“A new era.”
It’s a phrase which
gets thrown around a lot in the world of athletics. But for the Valparaiso
University men’s basketball team, a new era truly begins this season, as
first-year head coach Matt Lottich prepares to lead the Crusaders into the
For the first time
in nearly 30 years, the head coach of the Crusaders will not sport the last
name Drew, as Bryce Drew departed for Vanderbilt in early April. The Drew
family -- father Homer and sons Scott and Bryce -- combined for 515
victories over 28 seasons at Valparaiso, including 14 postseason
But Lottich enters
the 2016-17 season well-positioned to continue the Crusaders’ standard of
graduate has spent the last three years on the Valpo sidelines as an
assistant coach, helping Valpo to 78 victories in that span. The Crusaders
have enjoyed the two winningest seasons in program history in Lottich’s
three years at Valpo, including last season’s record-setting 30-win campaign
which culminated with an appearance in the NIT championship game at Madison
Lottich has plenty
of weapons at his disposal for his first season at the helm, highlighted by
the return of senior forward Alec Peters. Peters earned AP Honorable Mention
All-American accolades last season, leading the Crusaders with averages of
18.4 points and 8.5 rebounds per game, and has earned preseason All-America
nods from a number of publications this fall.
Entering his final
year at Valpo, Peters already ranks fourth in Crusader history in scoring
(1,682 points) and seventh in rebounding (704 rebounds).
Peters is one of
two returning starters for Valpo in 2016-17, as junior guard Tevonn Walker
returns from the starting five as well.
Walker, a Horizon
League All-Freshman Team selection in 2014-15, was plagued by injuries last
year, but still appeared in 31 games and made 26 starts. The Crusaders’
starting two-guard averaged 8.8 points and 3.4 rebounds per game in 2015-16
and ranked third on the team in assists.
Other key returning
players from last year’s rotation include senior forward Jubril Adekoya
(18.5 minutes/game, 6.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 58.1% 3PT%) and senior guard Shane
Hammink (22.1 minutes/game, 8.9 ppg, 50% FG%, 61 assists). Both Adekoya and
Hammink are expected to assume larger roles this season for the Crusaders.
The main questions
for the Crusaders exist at point guard, Keith Carter’s appeal for a final
season of eligibility was denied, leaving a vacancy at that spot.
to fill that position include redshirt junior Lexus Williams -- who was an
All-Freshman Team choice in 2013-14 -- junior Max Joseph, or freshman Micah
Bradford -- who comes to Valpo as a top-20 recruit from his class in the
state of Illinois.
At center, Vashil
Fernandez’s illustrious Valpo career has finally come to a close following
program records for single-season and career blocked shots totals, one
national and two Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year awards, and
three degrees from Valparaiso University.
The 7’2” Derrik
Smits -- who redshirted last season due to injury but was an Indiana
All-Star in high school -- and 6’11” Jaume Sorolla -- a native of Tortosa,
Spain who averaged nearly 18 minutes per game this summer in helping Spain
to win the 2016 FIBA U20 European Championship -- will battle it out to be
the man in the middle for the Crusaders this season.
The regular season
opens on Friday, Nov. 11 at 7 p.m. at home against Southern Utah. The night
will begin with a pre-game ceremony to raise the Horizon League regular
season title and NIT finalist banners.
slate includes eight home games and road contests against a pair of the
nation’s top teams in Kentucky and Oregon. The Horizon League schedule gets
underway on Dec. 30, and leads up to the Horizon League Championship at Joe
Louis Arena in Detroit Mar. 3-7.