SPOKANE, Wash. – The Whitworth University men's basketball team officially opens the 2017-18 season at Midnight Tuesday/Wednesday against the University of LaVerne, and then hosts a pair of games on Friday and Saturday. All three game will be broadcast live in Spokane on KSBN 1230 am and on the internet at KSBN.net.
Watch the Whitworth men's basketball schedule for other live links to this week's games.
NWC Preseason Poll: Whitworth is second in the 2017-18 Northwest Conference coaches poll, which was released today by the conference office. The Pirates received one first place vote and 58 points, trailing only defending champion Whitman. Whitman picked up eight first place votes and 72 points in the poll. Whitworth is aiming for a 12th consecutive trip to the NCAA Division III tournament.
The Pirates: Whitworth has 18 players on its 2017-18 roster, ten of whom are new to the program. The lone returning starter from last season is junior wing Kyle Roach, who led the Pirates in scoring (15.9 ppg) and was second in rebounding (5.2 rpg). Two returnees and two newcomers will fill out the starting lineup. Ben Bishop, a 6-8 junior, will become the starting center, while Ben College, a 6-1 sophomore, will step into the shooting guard role. Jordan Lester, a 6-2 transfer from Robert Morris University, will become the Pirates' starting point guard this winter. Jared Christy, a 6-6 transfer from Pacific Lutheran University, will join Bishop on the front line.
Whitworth played at NCAA Division I University of Montana on November 10th in what was an exhibition game for the Pirates, but a counting contest for the Grizzlies. Whitworth hung close to Montana throughout, taking a lead early in the second half, before eventually falling 72-60. Jordan Lester scored 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds, while Kyle Roach finished with 14 points and 10 boards. Ben Bishop added nine points and ten rebounds as the Pirates outrebounded their DI foes 42-33. Twenty-four turnovers ultimately doomed Whitworth.
The Opponents: The University of LaVerne, a member of the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletics Conference, is coming off of its best season in more than a decade under 11th year head coach Richard Reed. The Leopards finished 16-10 last season and qualified for the four-team SCIAC tournament for the first time with a 10-6 league record. However all five primary starters have graduated. Senior guard Connor Head, a former high school teammate of new Whitworth assistant coach Kenny Love, averaged 6.7 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game in 2016-17. He started nine of the 26 contests. Whitworth won 96-88 at LaVerne last season. The last time the Pirates opened the schedule with a midnight game, the Pirates defeated the Leopards 87-80 in 2015-16.
Gallaudet University, located in Washington D.C, is Whitworth's opponent on Friday night at 8:00 pm. Gallaudet is the nation's premier college for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. The Bison are coming off of an historic season in which they finished 20-6 and were the regular season champions of the North East Athletic Conference with an 18-2 record. However, Gallaudet was upset in the NEAC semifinals and did not make the NCAA tournament. Senior Andy Cruz, a 6-5 forward, earned second team All-NEAC last year when he averaged 13.8 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. Sophomore guard Noah Valencia was a frosh phemon in 2016-17, leading the team in scoring average (15.8) while making 3.0 three-pointers per contest. Third year head coach Kevin Kovacs was the 2016-17 NEAC Coach of the Year. Whitworth and Gallaudet have never played in men's basketball.
Saturday night's opponent for the 6:00 pm contest will be the Waynesburg University Yellowjackets from Wayensburg, Pennsylvania. Waynesburg is a member of the Presidents Athletic Conference and the Yellowjackets are coming off of a 6-19 season in 2016-17, 4-14 in the PAC. Senior wing Jon Knab was an honorable mention All-PAC honoree last season after he averaged 16.0 points per game and made 49.8% of his shots. Mark Christner is in his eighth year as head coach at the school. Whitworth and Waynesburg have never played in men's basketball.
National Ranking: For the first time in nine years, the Whitworth Pirates were not among the top-25 in the D3hoops.com preseason poll. The Pirates are listed seventh among "others receiving votes" with 42 points.
20 By 12: Whitworth extended its school record for consecutive seasons with at least 20 victories to 12 in a row in 2016-17. Prior to this current streak, the most 20-win seasons in a row the Pirates had ever had was two (on three different occasions). Only Wooster (OH), now with 20, has a longer current run of consecutive 20-win seasons in NCAA Division III men's basketball.
More Than A Decade of Dominance: Since the beginning of the 2005-06 season (12 years) the Pirates are 291-54 (.843), an amazing run of success matched by few other college teams at any level. Within the Northwest Conference, Whitworth has won 132 of its last 142 (.929).
Home-Sweet-Home: Whitworth has been stellar in the Whitworth Fieldhouse since the 1990's. During the decade of the 1990s and 2000's Whitworth won more than 84% of its home games. But since the beginning of the 2005-06 season, the Bucs are 146-14 (.913) at home.
The Pirates have had two home-court winning streaks of more than 40 games since 1990. A 41-game home court winning streak from early 2009 until December of 2011 was the second-longest in Pirate history. The school record for consecutive home victories is 43, beginning during the 1994-95 season and ending during the 1997-98 season.
Road Warriors: As good as Whitworth is at home, the Pirates have been almost as good away from the Whitworth Fieldhouse during Matt Logie's tenure as head coach. Since the start of the 11-12 season, Whitworth is 69-14 (.831) away from home, 53-11 (.828) in true road games.
The Main Man: Kyle Roach, the only returnee from Whitworth starting lineup in 2016-17, earned second team All-Northwest Conference recognition last season. He will be the primary focus of most opponents' defensive efforts heading into 2017-18. Roach finished fourth in the NWC in scoring average (15.9 ppg) while making 54.1% of his field goals (5th in the NWC) and 43.3% of his three pointers (6th in the NWC). Roach also finished second on the team in rebounding (5.2 rpg). Roach was selected as the league's men's basketball Student-Athlete of the Week twice this season (Nov. 28, Dec. 26).
Bull's Eye Ben: Ben College finished second in the Northwest Conference in three-point field goal percentage in 2016-17, making 46.5% of his shots from beyond the arc. He was 40-86 from long distance and his best game came on December 9th against Covenant College when he went 6-8 from three-point range and scored 28 points.
Coming Home: Jared Christy has prior experience playing college games in the Whitworth Fieldhouse, but it was previously all for Pacific Lutheran. Christy earned second team All-NWC recognition as a sophomore in 2016-17 after leading the league in rebounding by a wide margin (11.2 rpg). He added 13.8 points per contest. Christy is from Spokane and played high school basketball at Ferris.
On the Air Again: Whitworth's games are once again carried live this season on KSBN 1230am in Spokane. The relationship between Pirate athletics and KSBN goes back to 1994, a span of 22 years. Bud Nameck is in his second season as the voice of Whitworth basketball. The co-host of 920 KXLY radio's Morning News, Nameck has more than 30 years of experience calling college basketball at Gonzaga University and Washington State.
Coming up next: Whitworth will head to Hawaii for Thanksgiving break for games against 12th-ranked North Central (Ill.) and Arcadia (Pa.).
The Coach: Matt Logie leads NCAA Division III in winning percentage by active coaches with at least five years of experience. Logie heads into the 2017-18 season with a record of 149-25 and a winning percentage of .856 over his first six seasons at Whitworth. He also accomplished what no other coach had ever done in NCAA Division III history – win 100 games in his first four seasons as a head coach. He is a three-time NWC Coach of the Year honoree, earning the award in 2012, 2014 and 2015. He is 97-11 against the NWC, counting each of the last six conference tournaments. Logie has guided several players to post-season honors in his four seasons, including Third Team NABC All-America recognition for George Valle (2016), Kenny Love (2015) and Dustin McConnell (2014). Logie has been a finalist for the Glen Robinson Division III men's basketball Coach of the Year award twice in his career (2016 and 2013)
Logie previously worked eight seasons as an assistant coach at Lehigh University (Pa.), his alma-mater. He also spent a season as an assistant coach at Kent State. In 2010 Logie was named as the top Patriot League Assistant Coach in men's basketball in a Foxsports.com Coaches Poll and in 2011 he was recognized as one of the top 50 assistants in Mid-to-Low Major college basketball by Hoopscoop on-line magazine. Logie is originally from Mercer Island, Washington where he won a pair of state basketball championships while playing for his grandfather, Ed Pepple, a legend in Washington's high school ranks who won 952 games and four state titles in 49 years of coaching.