Written by Student Assistant Christian Bond
TACOMA, Wash. - New coaches, new players, and several questions surround the 2017-2018 men's basketball team at Pacific Lutheran University as they prepare for the start of its season that begins on Wednesday in Olson Gymnasium with a game against Northwest Indian College at 7 p.m.
With Steve Dickerson retiring, Pacific Lutheran University hired Chad Murray to be the new men's basketball coach. Murray joins the Lutes after serving as head coach at Division III Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa for the last eight seasons. Murray led the Rams to a 12-12 record and a 10-8 mark in Midwest Conference play last winter, advancing to the semifinals of the MWC Tournament. In his eight years at the helm, Cornell produced four 1,000-point scorers and seven All-Conference honorees, along with five Honorable Mention All-Conference selections.
"If I was going to leave where I was, it had to be a perfect fit, and this is," coach Murry said about PLU. "Athletics matter here, and there is genuine excitement throughout all season. There are a lot of successful programs, and we want to be a part of that. I get jealous when I see volleyball and women's soccer going to the NCAA Tournament. I've been there once as an assistant, but I'm going to do everything I can to get us to that level eventually."
Of the eight players returning to the team, Senior Dylan Foreman is the only player to experience significant playing time. Foreman has been a three-year starter,, averaging 12.6 points per game, shooting 43.1 percent for his career and heads into the season needing just 44 points to hit 1,000 for his career. Joshua Baird, Markus Glenn, and Sean McLaughlin round out the senior class for the Lutes.
"All of the guys have been awesome with me," Murray said. "When I got here last April, it was all about learning who they are as people. They've been awesome in terms of embracing new things, and new ideas, change and all that. With the guys we have coming back, only Foreman has significant experience. It's really about trying to get those guys who have been a part of the program, but haven't gotten significant time, to understand how to play."
The Lutes are excited about the addition of Leighton Kingma. Kingma transferred to PLU after being apart of the Whitman College men's basketball program.
"Kingma is a very very talented player," Murray said. "He can shoot the lights out. He's long, lean and lengthy kid, that can flat out score, but he has to be able to do other things too. We're trying to turn him into a more well-rounded player and get him the reps to increase his skill level."
New to the team is Kyle James. James has attended PLU in the past, but has not been a part of the basketball program. Both James and Kingma are forwards and are joined by freshman Zachary Goff. Goff's been involved with the PLU community early in his tenure, hosting a sports talk radio show with teammate Dylan Foreman on Lute Air Student Radio.
The remaining eight players in the freshman class are guards. Bailey Alabanza and Scott DeSalle are the only freshman that hail from out of state. Alabanza is from Kailua, Hawaii, while DeSalle comes to PLU from Salem, Oregon. Jack Adams III, Kason Koski, Grayson Peet, and Luke Worley add some nice size to the position standing at 6-1 or taller. Kelton Williams and Shay Curcuruto provide exceptional athleticism.
"They'll all have awesome attitudes," Murray said. "My assistant Tyler Copp is putting them through individual workouts that they are asking for. They're really thirsty to learn more. That's all I'm asking for. Players that are ready learn, be a sponge, and are willing to be coached."
With so many new elements to the PLU men's basketball program, the expectations set by coach Murray are simple.
"Obviously, we'd love to qualify for the conference tournament, but we don't even know if that's realistic yet," Murray said. "From an expectations standpoint, I just want us to continue to be coachable, get better on a daily basis, and to see steady improvement throughout their time at PLU. We are where we are right now, and at the end of the season if we can honestly say that we've gotten a lot better, that's good for me."
The answers begin to be solved on Wednesday when PLU hosts Northwest Indian College at 7 p.m. inside Olson Gymnasium.
Nov. 15: PLU vs. Northwest Indian inside Olson Gymnasium (7 p.m.)
Series History: The Lutes and Eagles have met just once on the hardwood with PLU turning in a record setting performance. The two teams last met on Nov. 24, 2015 inside Olson Gymnasium with the host Lutes setting a school record for points scored in a 130-52 blowout victory.
About the Eagles: Northwest Indian (0-5) already has several games under its belt, including playing five contests against members of the NAIA Cascade Collegiate Conference.
The Eagles have allowed triple digits in all five games this season, falling to Eastern Oregon by scores on 113-98 and 113-74 over the weekend.
Kacy Green led NWIC in its last game, pouring on a season-high 43 points, getting 17 of those from the charity stripe. Jaloni Pepper has been the most consistent performer for the Eagles, leading the team in scoring in four of those games and averaging 20.4 points per game.