2005-06 WWU Men's Basketball Preview
Oct. 17, 2005
BELLINGHAM, Wash. - With all five starters returning from a highly successful season, hopes are high for the 2005-06 Western Washington University men's basketball team.
Last year's 22-7 team was the top seed in the West Regional of the NCAA Division II National Tournament, reaching the regional semifinals, and tied for first place in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference at 13-5.
The Vikings figure to be one of the most experienced teams in the country, with eight seniors on the roster, five of whom are three-year letter winners.
With the success this crop of Vikings has had, Street and Smith's preseason NCAA II rating put Western at No.2 nationally, behind only Tarleton State TX. And they were No.5 in the Division II Bulletin rating.
"We're looking forward to the season, certainly we have the capability to do very well," said Western coach Brad Jackson (21st year, 375-217), the winningest coach in school history. "Obviously, people will be pointing at us, and we have expectations, but you want to be in that situation. That's a position that you strive to be in."
The Vikings return 85 percent of their scoring and 90 percent of their rebounding from a year ago, but Jackson believes there's still room for improvement.
"Our key focus is on internal things - on being the best team and players we can be," he said. "We've put a real focus on effort, because if we do the things we're capable of, other things tend to be a by-product of that."
Leading the way for Western are two first-team all-GNAC seniors, who are on pace to finish their careers among the top five scorers in school history - forward Grant Dykstra (Everson/Lynden Christian) and guard Ryan Diggs (Victorville, CA/Silverado). They helped Western average 91.3 points a game last season, which ranked third nationally in NCAA II.
Dykstra was named the 2005 national recipient of the prestigious United States Basketball Writers Association Most Courageous Award. He averaged 17.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and a team-high 2.0 steals, and was a first-team all-West Region selection by both Daktronics, Inc., and the National Association of Basketball Coaches. He shot 50.3 percent from the field (174-of-346), including 46.9 percent (69-of-147) on 3-pointers, and 82.3 percent (79-of-96) on free throws.
"Grant is an exceptional player," said Jackson. "He's such a fierce competitor, yet he plays with great control and balance. People focus on his offensive game, which is outstanding, but he's truly an all-around player."
Diggs averaged a team-high 18.1 points a game and also contributed 3.3 assists and 1.1 steals, earning second-team NABC all-region honors. He shot 85.0 percent on free throws, the sixth-best mark in the GNAC, and his 6.2 free throw attempts per game were the second-best average in the conference.
"Ryan is one of the best athletes in all of Division II," Jackson said. "His ability to explode makes him very difficult to play against, teams always have to be on alert, but he was also pretty consistent last year."
Dykstra, who has started every game the last three seasons, ranks 11th in school history in scoring with 1,226 points, is 12th in career steals with 150 and 13th in assists with 280. Diggs is 13th in career scoring with 1,158, and is 16th in assists with 259.
The third three-year letter winner on the perimeter is guard Kyle Jackson (Bellingham/Sehome), the son of the head coach. Jackson averaged 9.9 points and a team-high 4.0 assists, shooting a team-best 86.0 percent on free throws and 48.4 percent (30-of-62) on 3-pointers.
"Kyle has proven to be one of the smartest point guards we've had in terms of game understanding and running the team," said coach Jackson. "When you look at the assist-turnover ratio he has (2.66, third in the GNAC) and his shooting percentage, he's been very efficient. Plus, he brings a great settling influence.
"Between those three guys, they complement each other very well. Adding another year of experience will benefit them even more, they don't get rattled and are very consistent."
Two more seniors complete the starting lineup in the post spots. Forward Tyler Amaya (Mount Vernon/Gonzaga/Dixie) earned GNAC Newcomer of the Year honors as he averaged 12.0 points and team-bests of 7.9 rebounds and 1.0 blocked shots.
"Tyler (Amaya) had a great year and he still has another step he can take," Jackson said. "He is an extraordinary athlete who plays with a lot of fire - he ignites the crowd with spectacular plays."
At center, Tyler MacMullen (Mukilteo/Kamiak/Edmonds CC) averaged 10.8 points and 6.3 rebounds as a junior, shooting a team-best 52.7 percent from the field.
"He got better as last season went on, and he's improved his offensive skills and decision making in the off-season," Jackson said of MacMullen. "He's hard to handle in the low block, and he's adding some mid-range game."
Another senior three-year letter winner, guard Preston Vermuelen (Sumas/Nooksack Valley), has been the team's Most Inspirational Player each of the past three seasons. He averaged 3.7 points in just 7.2 minutes a contest and was also a defensive presence.
"Preston is a quiet assassin," Jackson said. "He plays with a smile on his face, but he's a tough competitor. He's an exceptional shooter, and he runs and jumps well. He can be an energy guy, a defensive spark, but we don't want to limit him to one niche."
Two other seniors provide additional depth up front. Forward Darrell Visser (Lynden), a three-year letter winner, averaged 2.4 points and 0.8 blocks. Senior center Rob Primozich (Anacortes/Everett CC) saw action in 13 contests last year.
"Darrell is probably one of our better defenders and better rebounders," Jackson said. "To be a significant contributor is just a matter of consistency for him. Primo came here as a walk-on. He's 6-foot-9, he hustles hard, and gives everything he has every single day."
Junior center Lukas Henne (Bremerton/Central Kitsap) has seen regular action the last two seasons, last year averaging 3.0 points, 2.6 rebounds and 0.6 blocked shots, shooting 57.8 percent from the field and 83.3 percent on free throws.
"This could be a breakout year for him," said Jackson. "He has good size and length, is a quick jumper, and plays his best in the toughest situations. A lot of times, guys become different players when they become juniors. My guess is that will be the case with Lukas." Sophomore forward Brett Weisner (Spokane/Shadle Park) averaged 2.9 points and 1.3 rebounds last season, and seems fully recovered from off-season shoulder surgery.
"Brett brings a lot of physical maturity, the big key for him is consistency," said Jackson. "He's very energetic, he can run the floor, and he has deep range."
Two freshmen - forward Calin Schell (Chelan) and guard Ken Nwaelele (Bothell/Inglemoor) - return after redshirting last year. Schell was a first-team Class 2A all-state pick as a prep senior in 2003-04, averaging 17.0 points on 57.7 field goal shooting, 9.6 rebounds and 2.7 blocked shots. Nwaelele was a second-team all-Kingco 4A League choice as a senior, averaging 16.7 points and shooting 41 percent from 3-point range.
Completing the active roster is freshman David Brittinen (Hoquiam), an honorable mention Class 2A all-state pick for state champion Hoquiam High School in 2003-04 who joined the squad last spring. Sophomore guard Ira Graham (Fontana, CA), who averaged 4.6 points in 11 contests last year, will redshirt.
The Vikings open the season in Hawaii, facing regional rival Brigham Young-Hawaii, and also travel to California in December to meet defending West Region champion Cal Poly Pomona.
"It is a tough schedule, but one designed for a veteran team," Jackson said. "Above anything else, I want our guys to value and appreciate each day, and the opportunity they have. It's pretty unusual to have eight seniors, and we want to maximize that opportunity. John Wooden used to say make every day your masterpiece. If we do that, the outcome could be very exciting."
Western Washington Vikings Sidebar Links
|Email this article||Printer-friendly format|