Lancer basketball fired up for season start

[Lauren Shelburne | The Banner]

With three regular season games and an exhibition game under the respective belts of the women’s and men’s basketball teams at California Baptist University, a long season awaits and the teams are eager to compete.

This season begins the end of an era in the Van Dyne Gymnasium for both teams as they prepare to take a new stage in the Events Center for the 2017-2018 season. The Events Center is on track to open in April 2017.

The women’s team, already 2-1 this season, debuted at the No. 2 spot in the NCAA Division II Preseason Top-25 Coaches Poll, and several Lancers have picked up PacWest preseason honors. Cassidy Mihalko, senior business administration major and guard, was named the preseason Player of the Year, and Courtney Nelson, senior undeclared major and guard, was named to the preseason All-Conference Team alongside Mihalko.

Despite the loss in the D2 Tipoff Classic, Jarrod Olson, head coach of the women’s team, said this season will be the best year for women’s basketball in the PacWest. This year is special for both Olson and the senior class as he watched them grow into the players they are today.

“Their freshman year, there were 10 seniors out of 11 players,” Olson said. “We had to create a roster. It’s been exciting and rewarding to see the growth. They should be proud of what they’ve accomplished so far, but they are also aware they have a lot more things to do.”

Such goals include winning the conference and a national championship and closing the season out in Van Dyne.

Key returners this season include Olivia Weber, senior health science major and forward, and Erin Asher, senior kinesiology major and guard.

In her freshman season, Asher appeared in all 28 games with 21 starts. She led the team with 40 steals and posted 83 assists on the season, earning her an All-PacWest honorable mention. She finished the 2015-2016 with 114 total assists and scored a season-high 15 points.

Weber, like Asher, appeared in all 28 games in her freshman season as well and was named to the PacWest Academic All-Conference team. Last season, Weber appeared in 28 games and led the team with an average of 5.1 rebounds per game.

Weber said she is proud of the team the women have grown into during their time in Van Dyne. “We began as freshman as the first CBU women’s team to compete in the NCAA and that was empowering,” Weber said. “We’ve practiced (in Van Dyne) for the last four years and this is where we developed into the team we are.”

With newcomers on the scene, the seniors make sure the CBU standard is upheld. Asher said she looks forward to leaving behind a legacy within the new faces on the team.

“We got to live the national championship,” Asher said. “We rebuild. It’s nice to end this season together. We have the same goal in mind. There’s no better group to finish with. We hold the newcomers to a certain standard in practice. We come here and work hard.”

The men’s team upholds the same standards as well. Rick Croy, head coach of the men’s team, said the standards in which the team goes about their daily life is an important component to the team.

“Standards in terms of how we train act and carry ourselves and represent CBU are huge; the people carry your standards,” Croy said. “(The team relishes) in the expectations.”

The team debuted at the No. 9 spot in the National Association of Basketball Coaches NCAA Division II Preseason Poll, making them the only team from the PacWest in the Top 25 and the highest ranked team in the West Region.

Last season, the team finished 28-7 overall and a PacWest Championship title under its belt. The men unofficially opened this season in an exhibition game against University of California, Berkeley and fell 81-73.

Leading the team was Michael Smith, senior business administration major and guard, Marquise Mosely, sophomore kinesiology major and guard, and Jordan Heading, redshirt sophomore kinesiology major and guard.

Croy said all three of these athletes have made major improvements and he looks forward to their growth this season.

In addition to the three, Kalidou Diouf, junior journalism and new media major and center, is projected to have a huge season after a big last season finish.

This season’s roster includes many new faces, including two transfer students. Croy said the group has meshed well in practices and preseason play and continues to grow.

“We’ve got a great group of guys. We pride ourselves in being a program where everyday, guys get better,” Croy said. “We’re starting to see that from Kali, he’s improved tremendously. He is in tremendous condition.”

As a whole, the team has improved in passing and Croy said they do not plan on slowing down.

“We’re in a great basketball conference. This year is going to be the toughest. It’s going to be competitive from top to bottom,” Croy said.

The team is focusing on the relationships with each other with the mix of transfers and freshmen. Croy said the relationships the team has with one another allows them to finish the tough games and walk away successful.

“When you add transfers, you want to make sure they understand your culture and I think we’ve done that. They understand CBU and appreciate the opportunity and they get what the program is all about,” Croy said. “We do it all together and it’s really a special synergy that we play with.”

Casey Norris, graduate student of sports management, guard and transfer from Loyola Marymount University joins the Lancer squad after a year off.

Norris said he was drawn to CBU’s atmosphere and is excited to compete again.

“(CBU) was something I wanted to be a part of,” Norris said. “I’m looking forward to everything, the first game—even practice gets me excited. I’m happy to be here again.”

The men’s season tips off Nov. 11 in a double-header at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. at home in the Lancer Tipoff Classic.

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