Happiness is a warm gym.
In the Hoosier state, other sports have tried their wares, but nothing topples the 10-foot rim — no matter how hard the dunkers hammer it.
Here now is an outlook for Northwest Indiana’s non-Division I men’s basketball teams.
PURDUE NORTHWEST: The old adage is “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” However, the modern version in basketball seems to be, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join up.” Last season’s Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference standings saw Purdue North Central and Purdue Calumet finish sixth and seventh, respectively, in the eight-team South Division.
PNC tied the school record for victories and was 15-15 overall but just 8-13 in league play. Purdue Calumet, meanwhile, was 12-18 with a 5-16 ledger in CCAC action.
What’s new? Everything.
The inaugural season of Pride men’s hoops will certainly be a season-long chemical engineering lab experiment as the two teams will truly absorb each other to play as one for former Morgan Township coach Matt Bush.
Michigan City grad Shereff Knight should lead the way in his senior season after averaging 10.4 points, 3.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game for PNC last season. Chandler Spring, meanwhile, should see touches in the backcourt after an outstanding freshman campaign at Purdue Calumet that saw him average 11.0 points and 2.8 rebounds per contest.
Five seniors, including Mike Williams (Lew Wallace) and Tanner Kuehn (Munster), and two juniors will have to carry an otherwise sophomore-heavy roster.
The five-member freshman class includes Hobart grad Hunter Smith and Lowell grad Brandon Cory.
“We feel the 2016-17 edition of Pride basketball will be an exciting and hard-working group of young men,” Bush said. “Our team is eagerly awaiting our first game.”
Bush, named head coach of the combined program in March to rave reviews, is excited to maximize the talent this season and recruit for the team’s move up to NCAA Division II next season.
Ryan Rader (11.8 ppg) is gone from the PUC side, and Mike Martin (18.0 ppg, 6.5 rpg) and Josh Fleming (15.1 ppg) are gone from the PNC squad.
INDIANA NORTHWEST: Although they’ve already endured a tough 92-91 loss to Judson University to open the season, the RedHawks have plenty of promise after a 14-15 record last season in which they ranked second nationally in NAIA Division II in rebounding margin and 9.3 per game and were top 10 in two other rebounding categories.
Darrius Davis and River Forest grad Justin “JJ” Pennington tied for the team lead at 11.3 ppg last season, and both are back. Brandon Grubl is the only key loss who averaged double figures.
Pennington (5.3 rpg) and Valpo native John Mosser (9.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg) were huge parts of the gaudy rebounding numbers in 2015-16.
The four-member freshman class includes Trevon Wilson (Clark) and Austin Williams (Calumet Christian).
Former four-year IUN assistant and Bishop Noll assistant Javier Heridia enters his first season as head coach after former head coach Kristofer Schnatz moved up in the athletic administration. Heridia played at St. Joseph’s and Calumet College.
“I am looking forward to this great opportunity and growing with this team and program,” Heridia said in a recent release.
CALUMET COLLEGE: The Crimson Wave went a respectable 19-12 last season, including a 14-7 mark in the CCAC, locking up the fifth seed in the conference tourney before bowing out against Robert Morris.
Chicago has definitely been a focus in recruiting as seven of the 11 players on the posted roster call the Windy City their hometown.
Johnny Baldwin led the Wave with 12.7 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game last season. Underclassman rising star Michael Brooks (10.9 ppg, 3.7 rpg) is also back.
ST. JOSEPH’S: Coach Tom Church has been telling everyone that this is a possible breakout season for the Pumas.
Four of the top five scorers return from a squad that went 9-19, including 4-14 in the Great Lakes Valley Conference, and Church is focusing on a fast pace with full-court pressing and instant, quick-hit offensive plays to keep the scoring numbers high.
Crown Point grad Nick Jeffirs will be a focal point of the offense after he averaged 9.5 points and 4.7 rebounds per contest as a freshman.
Davone Daniels (11.0 ppg in 2015-16), Davious Webster (10.5) and CJ Hardway (10.0) will boost the scoring attack as well.
The Pumas men’s and women’s basketball teams will host the second annual Puma Pandemonium 7 tonight in the fieldhouse. The event will consist of a variety of skill competitions, including a three-point contest, slam dunk contest and the half-court heave as well as interactions with players and coaches and a costume contest for fans.
St. Joe’s opens the season against Northwood University on Nov. 11.