VALPARAISO | The Valparaiso men’s basketball team went back to work on Monday morning with eyes already locked on the 2014-15 season.
Players began individual workouts while the coaching staff continued to pore over recruiting information in advance of filling the two remaining scholarships for next season’s roster.
Rising sophomore Alec Peters will lead a group of nine returners into the offseason, more than twice as many as the four returners that went through offseason workouts last year.
“Lavonte (Dority) would tell us about last year when all they could do was individual workouts,” Peters said. “We’re able to work together. We get on the court every day and play together. We battle against each other and that’s only going to make us better.”
Valparaiso coach Bryce Drew reiterated on Monday afternoon that he expects all the players and coaches to return next season. The Crusaders have had at least one player leave the program early every year since 2002-03. Peters and freshman Nick Davidson have previously stated that they expect all of their teammates to return.
“It’s nice to have more than half our team still on campus,” Drew said. “We’re starting this week with weights and conditioning. We gained a lot of experience this year and I think our guys have learned what they need to work on.”
While players work on increasing speed and power, Drew and his coaching staff will work on increasing Valparaiso’s size. Drew is looking under every rock for some height to add to next season’s team. With Moussa Gueye and Bobby Capobianco graduating, Vashil Fernandez is the only proven post player for next season. There are still injury concerns with Rice transfer David Chadwick (knee/leg) after he was limited to 84 minutes this season.
“We’re looking at high schools, prep schools, international, transfers,” Drew said. “We definitely need some size with only one true center.”
Both Peters and Drew remarked that this season was a learning experience. Drew expected some ups and downs with an inexperienced roster. The Crusaders delivered an exciting victory over Murray State in the season opener, knocked off Horizon League champion Green Bay at home and swept NCAA tournament participant Milwaukee during the regular season. Valparaiso also lost three games at the buzzer, got swept by Wright State and Cleveland State and finished the year with losses in four of their last five games.
“We definitely have a lot of room for growth,” Drew said. “With an inexperienced team, you’re not exactly sure what to expect. It’s nice that we have a lot of players that were able to gain experience. That will certainly help us as we get ready for next season.”
As Dority and Gueye prepare for their professional careers, there’s no question that the torch has been passed to Peters and his younger teammates. A bulk of next season’s returners were still in high school a year ago and now they’re ready to become core of Valparaiso’s program.
“I don’t think any of us really knew what was coming last year,” Peters said. “We kind of went into this blindly, but now we have the experience of a year and we know what to expect. We know the speed this game is played at and we know what we have to do to get there. I think we’re all excited to get back to work.”