VALPARAISO | Prior to speaking at a postgame press conference Friday night, Valparaiso senior Kevin Van Wijk secured an ice bag to his knee with a wide roll of clear athletic tape.
The loud ripping sound echoed through the room each time he wrapped his knee, drawing chuckles from head coach Bryce Drew and teammates Ryan Broekhoff and Jordan Coleman.
That's just Van Wijk, always having fun and making people smile.
He made Valpo fans smile during Friday's season opener, scoring a team-high 16 points with four rebounds and three steals in the Crusaders' 85-64 victory over Georgia Southern.
"Every game is fun," Van Wijk said. "I always enjoy being with the team. We have a lot of guys back from last year and it's our last chance to achieve our goals. So getting off to a great start, you get more excited."
It will be interesting to see if Van Wijk and the Crusaders (1-0) have some early-morning fun today when they face Northern Illinois (0-1) at 7 a.m. in an ESPN-scheduled game that is part of the network's college basketball Tipoff Marathon with games that began at 11 p.m. Monday and finish late tonight.
Drew didn't seem overly enthusiastic with how his team performed in a few recent morning practices.
"In the preseason we threw in a couple of 7 a.m.'s to see how they responded," Drew said. "Hopefully we'll play better in the 7 a.m. game."
Outside of waiting for Bobby Capobianco to recover from hernia surgery, there wasn't much to be concerned with after soundly beating Georgia Southern.
All 10 Crusaders played and everyone scored at least five points, showcasing the depth Drew expects.
"We had a lot (of injuries) happen last year and the guys remember being short of having a full roster," Drew said. "Other guys were used to filling in, and I think this team has done a good job of adjusting to adversity. If something comes up, whether it be an injury or sickness, other guys have taken advantage of the opportunity."
The early game will give fans an opportunity to see some hoops before starting the workday. The first 1,000 fans will receive a free T-shirt, and there is a pancake breakfast in Hilltop Gymnasium at 6 a.m. for students and fans.
Valpo beat Northern Illinois last year 59-48 in DeKalb. The Crusaders have won eight of the last nine in the series.
The Huskies, who were 5-26 last year, started the season with a 77-64 loss at Nebraska Omaha. They were led in scoring by junior Askel Bolin with 11 points and freshman Daveon Balls had 10.