Change is inevitable. Sometimes change can be for the worse, but for Ferris’ men’s basketball team, change has them looking like the team who won a championship two years ago.
It seems only yesterday Ferris alumnus Zach Hankins was dominating the paint for head coach Andy Bronkema’s 2017 squad. But following Hankins’ departure to Xavier University, the team hit a rough patch in 2018.
Injuries hurt the Bulldogs last year, but the team still finished 20-12 overall. That finish was a far cry from their 38-1 championship run the year prior.
“Injuries are a part of every season and every team deals with them and it’s unexpected and sometimes you just got to roll with it,” Bronkema said.
Pair the injuries with the fact Bronkema claims his squad wasn’t fully prepared to lose Hankins and a perfect storm limited their success.
This year the Bulldogs are again dealing with injuries, but Bronkema believes this year’s squad is less banged up than last year’s. The most notable loss was junior wing Jaylin McFadden who is out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL.
“Jaylin is still with us and still very valuable to us. His role is just different than normal,” Bronkema said.
After graduating four seniors in DeShaun Thrower, Markese Mayfield, Taylor Adway and Andrew Meachem, an infusion of youth was needed to pair with veterans like seniors Cole Walker and Greg Williams.
Enter freshmen Deng Reng, Ryan Segall and Aiden Shore: a core of young players that have the Bulldogs’ future looking bright.
Segall and Shore have yet to play a game this year, but Reng is averaging nearly eight points and 3.3 rebounds per game through 18 games played. Add Division I transfer in junior Logan Ryan who has added valuable minutes in four games played and the Bulldogs have found a good rotation.
Through 18 games, the new additions — along with steady gameplay from the starting lineup — have improved their numbers from a year ago.
Bronkema’s squad is averaging two additional rebounds per game (41.8), three more assists per game (21.4) and has taken a jump in field goal percentage (47.5 percent) from last year’s 45.7 percent.
As the season progresses, the Bulldogs will discover if talent-added will propel them past last year’s GLIAC Tournament quarterfinals exit. As for their focus, Bronkema notes that the team is adopting a ‘one game at a time’ mentality.
“You have to prepare every game to win, and if you don’t, then you know you did your best,” Bronkema said. “Last year we gave it everything we had and we got knocked out in the first round of the GLIAC tournament, and we were ranked in the region but Walsh upset their conference and won the bid. We are preparing the same way and doing all of the same way and this year’s team is just finding a way to win a couple of the close games down the stretch where last year we dropped a couple of those with losses.”
Ferris currently stands at 16-2 overall with their losses being by four points or less to Lewis and Davenport. The team is also tied for first in the GLIAC with a 5-1 record in-conference.
The Bulldogs head north next for a meeting with the Northern Michigan Wildcats 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 16.