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A Preview of the 2008-09 Season

A Gordon team without Jon (Marstaller), Justin (Kaufman), Keith (Krass), and Mike (Schnackenberg) is certainly going to take some time getting used to.  However, graduation puts them off the 2008-09 edition of the Gordon College Fighting Scots men’s basketball team and we are left with plenty to speculate about as the opening game (ENC at ENC – November 15th – 7PM) approaches.
Gordon Coach Mike Schauer

Gordon Coach Mike Schauer

 

“The big question is how quickly the current players can replace the players who graduated,” suggested Gordon coach Mike Schauer in his office on Monday.  “I don’t have the answer to that question.”

Asked about highlights from the 18-9, 2007-08 season the coach mentioned defeating nationally ranked Plattsburgh State in the Union College Tournament.  “That was the first time, as far as I know, that a Gordon team has ever done that,” explained the 7th year coach.

As much as I liked seeing the team win the Union Tournament in Schenectady in January, my personal favorite highlight was a month later at Endicott when Jon Marstaller drained a late three from the corner to down the Gulls, 56-55.  That win put to an end a long history of discouraging losses to Endicott at their building. 

The epitome of tough losses had been the previous year when Endicott rode an amazing 4-point play at the buzzer to steal one from Gordon at Beverly.  The excitement of that final play was the centerpiece of Endicott’s sports webpage for all of last season.  I doubt that we will see any evidence of the 56-55 loss anywhere this time around.

The 2008-09 team is almost entirely made up of underclassmen.  Junior starters Aaron Trigg and Brady Bajema headline the returnees.  Besides supplying scoring, they’ll also have turns playing point guard.  That’ll be a change to watch after admiring Justin Kaufman handle that position for four seasons.

Aaron returns from a Commonwealth Coast Conference All-Star season in which he averaged 16 points per game. “I think that he’s capable of being Player-of-the-Year in this conference,” said Coach Schauer.

Another starter will be junior Jeff Derr (6-8).  As his minutes increase, his scoring opportunities will as well.  Last season we saw him score most of his points from long range.  This year we will probably see him planted in close to the basket where his size and strength and post moves will be on display.  One thing an opponent does not want to do is foul Jeff.  Last year, I’m not making this up, he was a remarkable 38-for-40 from the free throw line. 

Despite having excellent perimeter players such as Aaron and Brady, Coach Schauer expects his team will be more of an inside-out team.  And why not when you have players the size of 6-7 Greg Walker, 6-8 Jeff Derr, 6-9 Ben Gaskill, and 6-9 newcomer Jon Himottu to choose from.  “I think that for the first time since I’ve been here we have a legitimate post game available.  Jon (Marstaller) could post some for us last sesaon but he was 6-4.  Now we have players whose strength is their post game.”

This year’s schedule has 11 games at home and 14 away.  Last year there were 11 road games and the Scots were a disappointing 4-7 away from the Bennett Center.  “If we’re going to get anywhere near our goals we’ll have to do much better than that,” said Coach Schauer.

In some ways, however, the schedule may benefit Gordon.  How?  Three teams (Colby-Sawyer, UNE, Roger Williams) were picked to finish ahead of the Scots in the CCC coaches preseason poll.  All three will be facing Gordon at the Bennett Center.  The Scots were 13-1 at the Bennett Center, before the best home crowd in the CCC, with the only loss being to nonleague Husson. 

The fact that only three of the fifteen all-conference players are returning, and Gordon has one of them in Aaron Trigg, is another reason for optimism.  “The team that wins the conference will have to have role players step up to elite role status,” explained Coach Schauer.  “I think that we have players who can do that and that’s why I think that we have as good a chance as anybody to win the conference.”

As I mentioned earlier the season gets underway Saturday night (7PM) at Eastern Nazarene in a nonconference game.  The Scots were embarrassed 82-69 in Quincy last year.  The Crusaders hit 9 of 13 three’s and shot 59% for the game and Coach Schauer must have left that game wondering where his defense had gone.

Gordon’s ability to defend is probably the biggest concern going into this season.  We know that stingy defenses have been a significant reason for this team’s successes in the past.  We’ve seen Aaron and Brady defend within this pattern in the past; however, questions remain about everyone else. 

Early on, I envision the stingy defense we’re used to seeing from the Scots being a little more “generous” than we used to but I also see a team capable of scoring more points to offset things.  If Gordon can get its defensive act together this could well turn into a very special season.

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Senior Keith Krass Reflects On Gordon Basketball

The word “journey” is often thrown around as a metaphor for athletics, and although I would like to insert a different word to compare my time as a Gordon basketball player I simply cannot think of a better word to describe these last four years.

A journey suggests relocation or at least a progression or continuation of something.  Gordon basketball has taught me so much about what it means to be a man of God, a selfless teammate and effective leader but also given me the necessary skills to navigate whatever the future may have in store.

To say thank you to the coaching staff and my fellow teammates seems petty and insufficient, but ultimately extremely appropriate.  Thank you.

I ended up at Gordon because the head coach of Crown College decided to go to Bryan.  I was recruited to play at Crown, a small Christian school in Minnesota, but about two weeks before my high school graduation the coach told me that he was leaving the school.  I was unsettled about Crown anyways, so his leaving really caused me to question to go there.

Later that week I went to my principal and asked him his advice on where I should go.  He knew a professor at Gordon-Conwell and told me how much this person raved about the North Shore.  I looked up Gordon on the internet; called Coach Schauer, sent him some tapes and he told me I had a spot.

I will be an assistant coach next year with the Gordon team.  I will also be working at Starbucks (as pretty much everyone does after receiving a college degree) to make ends meet.

I am currently doing my student teaching at Ipswich High School.

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Gordon College Men’s Basketball Record Holder Jim Petty Joins Hall of Honor

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Gordon College inducted Jim Petty of the Class of 1995 into their Hall of Honor on January 26, 2008.

A mere check of the Fighting Scots records in their media guide makes it easy to see that Jim deserved such an honor.  He holds a couple of all-time numbers that could be in the books for a long time – most points scored (1,902), highest career average (18.2).

Realizing that Jim might be at the Curry game (January 26th), I decided that I would try to interview him for this blog.  I also hoped to do the same with his coach Steve Heintz.  Things worked out with Jim but Coach Heintz was involved in a Lexington Christian Academy basketball game and was not available.

Jim attended Gordon from 1991-95 and I had seen him play a couple of times.  I remembered him as tall, thin and a very good outside shooter.  Even before catching up to Jim, I learned that thirteen years after graduating he could still play.  I got that information from 2007 graduate Mike Herr who matched up against him at the Alumni Game held in the morning.

When informed about how he had impressed a much younger, former basketball player he said, “I don’t know how impressive I was.  I still enjoy the game and it’s hard for me to let it go.  I invested so much of my life into the game early on.  I still play with some church guys but it’s not organized or consistent.”  Jim still looked to be at his Gordon playing weight.

I was curious to know how someone from Philadelphia ended up at Gordon.  “I was a 10th grader and Steve Heintz came to recruit another player who was the star of the team I was on.  He saw me play and told me that some day he would like to talk to me about coming to Gordon.  That started a relationship that has not ended.”

Jim said that he knew that because he had grown up in a big city he needed a big-city connection while at college.  “Boston seemed like a great place to have a college experience.”

I asked him about his memories of the teams he played on from 1991-95.  “As a freshman I just remember playing with some really great juniors and seniors that I just admired so much and they taught me a lot.  Then as a sophomore, I really had to step up and carry the team from a scoring standpoint.  That was a whole new experience for me.  My junior and senior years I really developed incredibly close friendships with a few of the guys on the teams. We’ve really bonded, and we’re still friends to this day.  So I have great memories both on the court and off the court especially those last few years.”

One of the most difficult parts about coming back to Gordon after being away for a while are the changes you’re confronted with.  Many of the changes are for the greater good but it does take some getting used to.  For any Gordon athlete who played prior to 1996 the Bennett Center is a site to behold.  His reaction to the Bennett Center is probably typical.  “I first saw it in 2001 and was just amazed.  I wish I’d had those facilities when I played.”

Jim played his basketball on the Gordon campus at Rhodes Gymnasium.  “We had a lot of blood, sweat, and tears in that building,” he recalled.  “It’s a little tough to go past it now and see that it’s an art gallery.”

Jim has settled in Georgia and works for a development company that builds retirement communities across the country.  He told me that he has been in the retirement community business ever since he graduated. 

Was there any connection between his time at Gordon and his eventual career choice?  “Definitely, yes.  As a student at Gordon, I was part of a nursing home ministry team.  We would visit local nursing homes. Some of the conditions I saw appalled me and it made an impression on me.  I got to know many seniors during these visits and still remember some of the conversations I had.  After graduation, a business opportunity presented itself in the retirement community field and I took it.  We try to build nursing homes that are much better than the ones in the past.” 

Jim admitted that he was familiar with the current Gordon team.  “My seven-year-old son and I have seen some of the games on the internet.  The team has a bright future.”

I did not talk to Jim after Gordon’s rout of Curry (93-63) but I suspect that the great Scot shooting he observed might have brought back a memory or two of his high-scoring afternoons and evenings at Rhodes.

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