Head coach Brian Wardle sat down recently to discuss the upcoming season with the play-by-play voice of the Green Bay men's basketball team, Matt Menzl.
GREEN BAY, Wis. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) - With all five starters returning, the Green Bay men's basketball team will kick off official practice for the 2012-13 season on Friday evening at the Kress Events Center. Head coach Brian Wardle and his team will have 29 days before opening the season at home against Chicago State on Saturday, Nov. 10 at the Resch Center.
The Phoenix will be anchored again by 7-foot-1 junior Alec Brown (Winona, Minn.), a versatile post player with the ability to play both the four and the five. Brown was an All-Horizon League first-team selection as a sophomore after averaging 13.8 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. Also one of the nation's top shot blockers, the Preseason First-Team All-Horizon League selection averaged three swats per game a year ago and holds the program's records for blocks in a game (11), season (89) and career (156).
Keifer Sykes (Chicago, Ill.) returns for his sophomore campaign after emerging on the scene with one of the best freshman seasons in Phoenix history. The point guard, voted a 2012-13 Preseason All-Horizon League Second-Team pick, averaged 13.8 points and 4.5 assists per game in conference play and was named to the All-Newcomer Team last year.
The team's lone senior, Brennan Cougill (Sioux City, Iowa), and junior sharpshooter Kam Cerroni (Sussex, Wis.) are back after starting more than half of the team's games a year ago. Cougill, a 6-foot-9 big man, averaged 9.2 points and seven rebounds as a junior transfer while Cerroni led the Horizon League in three-point percentage (46.5) and averaged 7.9 points per contest.
Wardle has stated his intent to get bigger and stronger, and the achievement of that goal is evident by the team's average height of over 6-foot-5. At 5-foot-10, Sykes is the team's lone player under six feet tall.
• THIS IS GREEN BAY BASKETBALL: The 2012-13 season will be the 44th in the history of the Green Bay men's basketball program. Since the first year of Green Bay men's basketball in 1969-70, the program has an all-time record of 758-513.
• HOME COOKIN': The 2011-12 season marked one of the most successful home seasons the Phoenix has had since moving into the Resch Center in 2002-03. Green Bay posted a 12-2 home mark (13-2 in 2008-09) to improve its record at the Resch to 22-6 under head coach Brian Wardle and 57-15 at the Resch Center since 2007-08, a .792 winning percentage.
• HOMEGROWN: A year after bringing in a talented freshman class of Chicago natives, Wardle looked closer to home for seniors from the Class of 2012. The Phoenix roster consists of four freshmen from Wisconsin, including Nick Arenz (Onalaska, Wis.), Ryan Bross (Menomonee Falls, Wis.), Jordan Fouse (Racine, Wis.) and Carrington Love (Milwaukee, Wis.).
• COME JOIN: Not to ignore his home area of Chicago, Wardle also welcomed a pair of transfers who come to Green Bay from the Chicago area. Eastern Illinois transfer Alfonzo McKinnie is a Chicago native and former high school teammate of Sykes while junior college transfer Sultan Muhammad, a Michigan native, played at Chicago's South Suburban College.
• BLOCK PARTY: It has become a little tougher for Green Bay opponents to shoot in the lane since Brown's arrival on campus. In his first two seasons, the 7-foot-1 Brown has swatted 156 shots to shatter the Phoenix career record. With 89 blocks as a sophomore, Brown averaged 3.0 per game, a number that ranked in the top-10 nationally. Another 36 combined blocks from Cougill and Greg Mays (Chicago, Ill.) helped the team register a school-record 142 for the year.
• TALL ORDER: Wardle pledged early on in his tenure to add height and length to the Phoenix roster. Consider it mission accomplished as the roster's 14 players have an average height of over 6-foot-5. The addition of the 7-foot-2 Bross gives Green Bay a pair of seven-footers, and six others stand at least 6-foot-6. Newcomers McKinnie (6-8), Arenz (6-8) and Fouse (6-7) will help to make Green Bay one of the tallest teams in the Horizon League.
- Green Bay will again square off against one of the nation's toughest non-conference schedules.
- The Phoenix will play 13 games in 2012-13 against nine teams that won at least 20 games a season ago.
- After opening with a home contest against Chicago State, Green Bay will play seven of its next eight games away from home.
- Green Bay will play in a tournament for the first time since 2010-11, heading to Reno, Nev., for the World Vision Classic. The Phoenix will play Southern Utah, Cal State Fullerton and Nevada, a team which won 28 games in 2011-12.
- The Phoenix play three games against teams from BCS conferences, including Virginia (Dec. 1), Wisconsin (Dec. 12) and Marquette (Dec. 19).
GOLDEN EAGLES COMING TO TOWN
- For the first time in its series history with Marquette, the Phoenix will welcome the Golden Eagles to Green Bay this season.
- Marquette will visit the Resch Center on Dec. 19 at 7 p.m., the second game of a 4-game homestand for the Phoenix.
- Wardle starred for Marquette from 1997-2001, and his 1,690 career points still rank seventh on the program's all-time scoring list.
- Wardle's scoring average of 14.4 points per game ranks fourth among all four-year players in Marquette history.
- With its five starters back from the end of last season, Green Bay is expected to rise up the Horizon League standings this season.
- The Phoenix was picked in the preseason poll by the league's head coaches, media relations directors and media members to finish third in the league standings, behind defending league champion Valpo and defending tournament champion Detroit.
PRESEASON ALL-HORIZON LEAGUE
- Brown was voted to the Preseason All-Horizon League First Team.
- Sykes, an All-Newcomer Team selection as a freshman, was named to the Preseason All-Horizon League Second Team.
- The Horizon League is the only conference in the country that returns all five of its first-team all-conference players.
- Detroit's Ray McCallum, Valpo's Ryan Broekhoff and Kevin Van Wijk and Youngstown State's Kendrick Perry join Brown on the first team.
WHAT CAN BROWN DO FOR YOU?
- Through two seasons, Brown is on pace to become one of the best players in program history.
- He became the first sophomore in 18 seasons to be named first-team all-conference (Jeff Nordgaard in 1993-94 and Tony Bennett in 1989-90 were the last two).
- His 739 points are the fourth-most through a sophomore season in the program's Division I era.
- Brown's 425 career rebounds are the most by a Green Bay player through a sophomore campaign in DI history.
- The 7-foot-1 Brown has reached double figures in 41 of 62 games and made 61 starts.
- With at least one block in 54 of 62 games, Brown holds the program records for blocks in a career (156), season (89) and game (11).
TOP OF HIS CLASS
- Sykes handled the starting point duties as a freshman and passed the test with flying colors, averaging 11.2 points and 3.4 assists per game.
- Sykes was named to the All-Newcomer Team in the Horizon League after leading all conference freshmen in points, assists and assist-to-TO ratio. He was the runner-up to junior transfer Julius Mays of Wright State in Newcomer of the Year voting.
- He improved down the stretch, averaging 14.7 points over the last 17 games while dishing out 4.8 assists and scoring in double figures 16 times.
- Sykes' 335 points were the most scored by a Phoenix freshman since the legendary Tony Bennett in 1988-89.
- Brown and Cougill formed one of the top post duos in the Horizon League last season, combining to average 23 points and 15.2 rebounds per game.
- Brown (8.2) and Cougill (7.0) ranked second and fifth, respectively, among Horizon League rebound leaders last season.
- Cougill was second in the league in defensive rebounding while Brown led the Horizon League in offensive rebounding.
- The pair also takes advantage of trips to the free-throw line, combining to shoot 77.1 percent (155-201) from the charity stripe.
MAKE THE FREEBIES
- The Phoenix ranked fourth in the Horizon League in free-throw percentage last season (70.6).
- Cerroni led the team at 82.6 percent, hitting 38-of-46. He made 34-of-39 in league play.
- Brown has led the team in made free throws in both of his first two seasons, and is a career 75.9 percent shooter from the line (195-257).
- Cerroni recovered from a tough freshman season (9-45) to have one of the best shooting seasons in Phoenix history.
- He hit 46.5 percent from long range (60-129), a percentage that ranks eighth all-time in the team's single-season chart.
- Cerroni led the Horizon League in three-point percentage and made half of his triples in league play (47-94).
- He was the lone conference player to make a three in every game, and will enter 2012-13 having made a three in 19 games in a row dating back to Dec. 13, 2011.
- The last time Cerroni did not make a three in a game in which he attemped one was Nov. 25, 2011 against Virginia.
- Green Bay will welcome junior Daniel Turner back to the court this fall after he missed the final 16 games of 2011-12 with a torn ACL.
- The 6-foot-6 forward has started 35 games in his career and totaled 268 points and 248 rebounds.
- In his lone healthy season, Turner averaged 6.6 points and 5.8 rebounds per game as a freshman in 2010-11.
- Now sophomores, Josh Humphrey and Greg Mays will look to take their games to the next level in 2012-13.
- Humphrey played sparingly early as a freshman before being inserted into the starting lineup after injuries to Turner and senior . He started 10 games and averaged 1.1 points and 2.1 rebounds.
- Mays played in 27 games and averaged 2.6 points and 2.4 rebounds while blocking 10 shots. He showed his promise with a 13-point, 8-rebound game at UIC late in the year.
STOCKING FULL OF COLE
- Around the holidays, transfer Cole Stefan will be eligible to suit up for the Phoenix.
- Stefan joined the team last January after playing his first season at La Salle, where he played in 25 games in 2010-11.
- The 6-foot-4 guard averaged 4.6 points per game and knocked down 31 three-pointers for the Atlantic 10 program.
- A Minnesota native, Stefan was the 54th ranked shooting guard nationally in the high school class of 2010.
WAITING HIS TURN
- Junior Alfonzo McKinnie transferred from Eastern Illinois and will sit out due to NCAA transfer rules.
- McKinnie averaged 10.2 points and 7.0 rebounds per game as a sophomore at EIU in 2011-12.
- The highly-athletic McKinnie has impressed in workouts and will be an asset to the Phoenix in practice this season.
- McKinnie, a 6-foot-9 forward, was a high school teammate of Sykes at Chicago's Marshall High School.
LOOKING TO JOIN THE CLUB
- Brown, with 739 points through two seasons, is on pace to join the program's 1,000-point club this season.
- With 261 more points, Brown will become the 25th player in program history to eclipse the mark.
- The last Phoenix player to join the 1,000-point club was Rahmon Fletcher, who also did so as a junior during the 2009-10 season.
OTHER MILESTONES IN REACH
- Already the school's all-time leader, Brown needs 44 blocks to reach 200. Brown and Youngstown State senior Damian Eargle (207) are both on pace to break the current Horizon League record of 226 career blocks, set by Evansville's Dan Godfread in 1990.
- Brown also enters the 2012-13 with 425 rebounds and is 75 rebounds away from becoming the 14th Phoenix player to grab 500 rebounds. He is on pace to join the top-10 in the category this season.
- With 31 more three-pointers, Cerroni will have knocked down his 100th career shot from long range.
- Cerroni will crack the top-10 on the team's all-time three-pointers made list with 79 more triples.
- Sykes is 165 points shy of 500.
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