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UWM-WAUKESHA MEN'S BASKETBALL SEASON PREVIEW

11/05/2018, 9:45pm CST
By Jeff Hagenau

The UWM-Waukesha men's basketball team enters the 2018-19 season with a strong core of leadership, depth and high expectations.

With the return of four battle-tested sophomores, including three starters, and addition of a talented cast of hungry, new players to the roster, the Cougars plan to continue to mesh throughout the year, make huge strides forward each time they step on the court and continue to live up to their longstanding reputation as one of the premier junior college programs in the state.

That confident game-by-game approach produced impressive results last season for the hard-working Cougars, who finished second in the highly competitive Wisconsin Collegiate Conference East standings with an 11-6 record and 16-10 overall. 

The Cougars went 4-6 over the course of the first semester (including difficult nonconference losses to Rock Valley College, College of Lake County and Milwaukee Area Technical College) but responded with confidence-building victories over UW-Richland (84-52), UW-Fond du Lac (94-80), UW-Sheboygan (83-79) and UW-Manitowoc (95-79).
Back-to-back home-court losses to UW-Fox Valley (67-66) and eventual WCC state champion UW-Washington (78-76) prior to the Christmas break proved to be the turning point - ultimately serving as motivation the rest of the way.

The team responded to the challenge by winning 12 of its final 16 games - including six of its last seven to close the regular season.

The inspired turnaround was highlighted victories over UW-Rock (80-76), Maranatha Baptist (86-51), UW-Richland (92-86), Concordia University of Wisconsin junior varsity (79-69), UW-Fond du Lac (93-78), UW-Fox Valley (63-54), Marian University junior varsity (84-68), UW-Sheboygan (63-61), UW-Manitowoc (83-62) and UW-Marinette (79-77).

The Cougars, who captured the No. 2 seed in the WCC playoffs, defeated UW-Fond du Lac in the opening round (77-66).

Hopes for a third consecutive trip to the WCC Final Four ended with a stinging home-court loss to UW-Sheboygan (81-70) in an emotional, hard-fought WCC quarterfinal playoff game Feb. 17.

For UWM-Waukesha head coach Adam Ligocki, it will be exciting watching his young, 19-player squad's progression throughout the year.

"We're very excited about the possibilities this season," said Ligocki, who is 86-41 entering his sixth season at the helm (highlighted by a WCC state championship in 2016-17) and will be joined on the bench by assistant coaches Kyle Fuller and Bob Whiteford. "As was the case when we won back-to-back conference championships a few years ago, we have very good depth and will be able to play a lot of different guys over the course of a given night. That should allow us the luxury to come at teams with a lot of fresh bodies, push the tempo and wear them down during a game. Because of that, it has led to a lot of good competition in practice and battles for playing time. 

"It will be fun to see how the chemistry and various roles continue to develop as the season progresses. We're long, very athletic and versatile with a lot of guys being able to play multiple positions. With most of the players being new to the team this year, it will just be a matter of gradually learning how to play together and taking good, positive steps each time we step on the floor. After the way things ended last season, it has served as great motivation to take our game to a higher level. There's not a doubt in my mind that we have the potential to compete for a championship if we maintain our focus and bring our best effort to the court every time."

The Cougars will be led by 6-foot-4 sophomore post player Kurt Meyle from St. John's Northwestern Military Academy and sophomore wing Jayden Hardy (6-4) from Nicolet, who each earned all-conference honors last season.

Meyle was a first-team all-conference selection by averaging a team-high 15.8 points per game with 7.0 rebounds to lead the Cougars. Hardy, who averaged 14.8 ppg. with 7.8 rpg., 1.9 assists and 1.3 steals, was named to the second team.

Sophomore guard Jackson Kunnert (5-9) from Pewaukee (12.2 ppg.) and sophomore wing Avery Corey (5-9) from Waterford also return.

Junior post player Montreale Rucker (6-4) from Milwaukee South Division, freshman guard Jalen Black (6-0) from Dominican, freshman guard Jake Antczak (5-11) from Mukwonago, freshman wing Kris Zeise (6-0) from Menomonee Falls, freshman wing Tyler Torsian (6-4) from New Berlin West, freshman guard Dion Morbley (5-10) from Milwaukee Vincent, freshman guard Juan Lazcano (6-2) from Waukesha South, freshman wing Jeremy Ninham (6-1) from Nicolet, freshman wing Brad Scheff (6-4) from New Berlin West, freshman wing Makal Evans (5-10) from Milwaukee Messmer, freshman wing Michael Rabbitt (5-10) from Pine Island, Minn., freshman guard Darrell Carson (5-7) from Believer's in Christ, freshman guard Chris Kreitlow (5-10) from Arrowhead, freshman post Theo Carson (6-2) from Milwaukee Messmer, and freshman post Wendell Gallimore (6-3) from West Allis Hale are new to the roster.

COUGAR FAST FACTS
What: UWM-Waukesha men's basketball team
Head Coach: Adam Ligocki, sixth season (86-41 overall record)
Assistant Coaches: Kyle Fuller and Bob Whiteford
2017-18: Finished 11-6 in Wisconsin Collegiate Conference East (second place), 16-10 overall (The Cougars lost to UW-Sheboygan 81-70 in a WCC quarterfinal on Feb. 17)
Players to Watch: sophomore post player Kurt Meyle from St. John's Military Northwestern Military Academy and sophomore wing Jayden Hardy from Nicolet
Other Key Returnees: sophomore guard Jackson Kunnert from Pewaukee and sophomore wing Avery Corey from Waterford
Promising Newcomers: junior post player Montreale Rucker (6-4) from Milwaukee South Division, freshman guard Jalen Black (6-0) from Dominican, freshman guard Jake Antczak (5-11) from Mukwonago, freshman wing Kris Zeise (6-0) from Menomonee Falls, freshman wing Tyler Torsian (6-4) from New Berlin West, freshman guard Dion Morbley (5-10) from Milwaukee Vincent, freshman guard Juan Lazcano (6-2) from Waukesha South, freshman wing Jeremy Ninham (6-1) from Nicolet, freshman wing Brad Scheff (6-4) from New Berlin West, freshman wing Makal Evans (5-10) from Milwaukee Messmer, freshman wing Michael Rabbitt (5-10) from Pine Island, Minn., freshman guard Darrell Carson (5-7) from Believer's in Christ, freshman guard Chris Kreitlow (5-10) from Arrowhead, freshman post Theo Carson (6-2) from Milwaukee Messmer, and freshman post Wendell Gallimore (6-3) from West Allis Hale

Tag(s): Team News  Waukesha