Lewis men's basketball team aims for return to NCAA Tournament
A Lewis University men's basketball team that recorded one of the school's best seasons in 2015-16 will look to improve on that season and travel deeper into the NCAA Tournament.
"Goals for this season are like they have been every year since I have been here," head coach Scott Trost, going into his 11th season, told the Will County Gazette. "A. Get better every day, B. Win 20 games, C. Win the (Great Lakes Valley Conference), D. Get to the NCAA Tournament and advance."
However, the team will have to replace a key scoring piece that left unexpectedly. Junior guard Max Strus, who led the Flyers in scoring with 20.2 points per game, transferred to DePaul University in Division 1, an opportunity that gives him a better chance at national exposure. Strus represents a key chunk of the Flyers' scoring, but Trost said it's a chance for other players to step up.
"Max was a very good player and had an outstanding season for us," Trost said. "We will miss him. However, it wasn’t a one-man team, and we return four guys from that team who played significant minutes. Along with the returners, we have some talented newcomers that are going to have to be impact-type players for us."
The team also lost senior center Kyle Nelson, its second-leading scorer at 12.8 points per game. However, they maintain leadership in senior guard Miles Simelton, and a scoring punch in sophomore guard/forward Delaney Blaylock. The two players are tied for the highest remaining scoring from the previous season, at 12.3 points per game.
Last year's team did very well indeed, finishing with a record of 24-9, 12-6 in the GLVC. The Flyers then won the GLVC postseason tournament, which got them a fourth-seed bid in the Division II NCAA Tournament. But their postseason run came to a very abrupt halt, suffering a minor upset at the hands of the fifth seed in their region, Saginaw Valley State, who defeated the Flyers 80-65. For Trost, this season is about putting that game in the rear-view mirror.
"I don’t know if we take much from the Saginaw Valley loss last year," Trost said. "It certainly wasn’t how we wanted the season to end. Last year is last year, and this is a totally different team. Nine members of this team weren’t even here. Every year is different."
While the team has improved by between one and two games each of the last five seasons, all of those seasons have been successful. The last five seasons, the Flyers have an average record of 20.6 wins and nine losses. Trost attributes that success to having put a solid program together, and old-fashioned hard work.
"The main reason for our success is that we have had some really talented players and the culture that we have created here. We have a hard-working group of young men that put the team first and care for one another," Trost said.