Titans Tackle the Offseason
Written by Blake Borgardt on April 11, 2022
Photo provided by Kodiak Creative
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – With the offseason of Illinois Wesleyan basketball upon us, it’s time to take a look at what next years team will look like now that the dust of this previous season has settled.
“It’s gonna be an interesting offseason,” said Head Coach Ron Rose. “We relied on Matt (Leritz), Pete (Lambesis) and Cory (Noe) so we had a 7-10 man rotation. So, we lose three but you still have 4-7 which gained really valuable experience this year… I’m very excited about next year’s team.”
The Titans will surely miss the presence of their three exiting senior players in All-American Matt Leritz, defensive guru Peter Lambesis and sharpshooter Cory Noe. In their place however, current Titans will be in prime position to fill roles for the team if they continue to develop their skills in the offseason.
“If I look at the three seniors, they’re guys that every offseason got better,” said Coach Rose. “I don’t go into seasons with predetermined lineups… but the reality is what you do in the offseason often predetermines what opportunities you get during the season.”
Many of next year’s seniors have already proven themselves on the court. One of these incoming seniors is guard Luke Yoder, who was third on the team in points per game scored with 11.6. Yoder also managed to rack up 4 rebounds and 3 assists a contest. Off the court Yoder radiates what it means to be a student athlete, as he was named All-Academic CCIW.
Cody Mitchell will be another incoming senior who will be expected to step up in lieu of this year’s graduating class. Mitchell showcased his ability to be an elite scorer in the Titans’ second game of the year against Hope, where he posted a season-high 29 points. As the main big man in the front court for the Titans rebounding will be an essential skill. Mitchell once again proved his ability to be the focal point of the Titans success in the final stretch of the season, where he posted 9 rebounds or more in six of their last eight games.
One senior who looks to be a day-one starter for the Titans who had not yet retained a consistent starting role is guard Lucas Heflen. Heflen was given starting minutes multiple times due to some pain management time allocated for Peter Lambesis. In these starts Heflen managed to prove that he could be a capable starter for next year’s team, putting up 15 points in a win against Millikin.
“I think the team is going to be left in great hands,” said Matt Leritz. “Guys like Cody, Luke and Lucas are great leaders, great guys and great basketball players. I think they’re going to care and take their job of upperclassmen and leaders very seriously… I think the team is in really great shape for next year.”
Underclassmen who could look to receive some expanded roles in the coming season will be incoming junior Ryan Sroka, who played valuable defense for the Titans all season. Coming off the bench as a seventh man, Sroka was tied for second on the team in steals with 24 on the year.
With the loss of Matt Lertiz, it leaves a gaping hole in the front court which Harrison Wilmsen is primed to fill. The incoming sophomore played the majority of minutes when Matt Leritz was off the floor and the Titans needed a forward to combat an opposing team’s big. Averaging six minutes a night in his 18 games played, he has already gained some crucial experience against some of the best in the CCIW.
“I think our staff does a really good job in the recruiting process of finding high character guys,” said Coach Rose. “They’re hard workers that love the game of basketball, and because of that I’m very fortunate to coach the guys I do.”
With the taste of what success in the NCAA Tournament is like, the Titans should come back hungry to achieve victory next season.