By: Andrew Gavin (@GBGavin)
GREEN BAY, Wis. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) – A highly anticipated Green Bay men’s basketball season gets underway on Sunday, at least unofficially. The Phoenix will host Viterbo at the Resch Center in its lone exhibition game before the 2013-14 season begins next Saturday, Nov. 9.
For the past two seasons, Alec Brown (Winona, Minn.) and Keifer Sykes (Chicago, Ill.) have led the Green Bay men’s basketball team as young players. Heading into 2013-14, Brown and Sykes are again the unquestioned leaders on the Phoenix team, but this time as elder statesmen. Brown is a young senior and Sykes is still just 19, but the duo begins next season with a combined 2,092 career points and three All-Horizon League awards. Both are on the Preseason All-Horizon League First Team for 2013-14.
Brown (14.1 ppg) and Sykes (15.9 ppg) headline four returning starters for fourth-year head coach Brian Wardle, who enters his fourth season at the helm of the Phoenix program. A year ago, the Phoenix posted an 18-16 record, finished tied for third in the Horizon League and was a desperation buzzer-beating three away from a title game berth in the Horizon League Championships.
Expectations are high for the Phoenix, a team that was tabbed as the preseason favorite to win the Horizon League. It was the first time since 1995 that Green Bay was picked as the preseason favorite and the first time the Phoenix had two preseason first-team selections.
Junior Greg Mays (Chicago, Ill.), who made 18 starts, returns to the Phoenix after coming into his own as a sophomore. The 6-foot-9 explosive post player averaged 6.8 points and 4.5 boards per game and led the team with a field goal percentage of 52.4 which included 21 dunks.
One of only three Phoenix players to start all 34 games in 2012-13, Jordan Fouse (Racine, Wis.) returns as a sophomore. Fouse’s rookie campaign included becoming the first freshman to lead the Horizon League in rebounding since 1996, breaking the program’s freshman records for rebounds and steals in a season and landing on both the conference’s All-Newcomer and All-Defensive teams.
Green Bay will play the first three games of its 2013-14 schedule at home, beginning with Nov. 9 against Northern Michigan, a contest which will be only the second regular season game the program has ever played at the Kress Events Center. The Phoenix hosts No. 20/21 Wisconsin on Saturday, Nov. 16 at the Resch Center.
LISTEN LIVE: Fans can listen live to the game on Green Bay's new radio partner, WNFL 1440 AM. The live audio with Matt Menzl and Cordero Barkley on the call will also be available via GreenBayPhoenix.com or on the Green Bay Phoenix App on IOS and Android devices.
PRESEASON FAVORITES: Green Bay was voted as a slight preseason favorite in the Horizon League in a vote of head coaches, media members and communications directors. The Phoenix received 390 points, just one clear of Wright State in the close preseason poll in league history. It marks the first time since 1995-96 that Green Bay was picked as the conference preseason favorite.
ALL-LEAGUE DUO: Sykes and Brown were voted onto the All-Horizon League Preseason First-Team, finishing second and third, respectively in the voting. Sykes and Brown are the first Phoenix teammates since the program joined the Horizon League to be named to the preseason first-team. Brown was an All-Horizon League first-team pick as a sophomore in 2011-12 and Sykes was voted to the first team as a sophomore in 2012-13.
AMONG THE NATION’S TOP PGs: Sykes was named to the Bob Cousy Award Watch List for the second-straight season. The Cousy Award is handed out annually to the nation’s top collegiate point guard. Sykes and Youngstown State’s Kendrick Perry were the lone Horizon League players named to the Cousy Watch List.
MID-MAJOR POLL: Green Bay is ranked No. 21 in the CollegeInsider.com Preseason Mid-Major Poll. Three other teams from the field of the Great Alaska Shootout are in the poll, including Indiana State (No. 5), Denver (No. 9) and Harvard (No. 12).
RESCH FOR SUCCESS: During Brian Wardle’s tenure as head coach of the Phoenix, Green Bay has excelled on its home floor at the Resch Center. Including a 24-5 mark the past two seasons, Green Bay is 33-9 at the Resch under Wardle. In 2012-13, the Phoenix posted one of the program’s signature wins, defeating eventual BIG EAST champion Marquette 49-47 on Dec. 19.
COMPETE, DEFEND, REBOUND: This signature Brian Wardle mantra was on full display in 2012-13 for the Phoenix. In Horizon League play, Green Bay led the conference in rebounding margin, field goal percentage defense and blocked shots. With Fouse grabbing 8.3 boards per game, Green Bay’s plus-6.4 was more than four rebounds clear of second place. Aided by a league-best 5.6 blocked shots per game, the Phoenix was also the only conference team to hold opponents below 40 percent from the field.
IN A LEAGUE OF HIS OWN: Brown will be in select company heading into this season. In fact, Brown will be in a group by himself as the nation’s only active player with 1,200-plus points, 600-plus rebounds and 200-plus blocks. The 7-foot-1 versatile post player is a two-time All-Horizon League player and was on the All-Defensive Team in 2012-13. Brown is only the second player in Horizon League history to accumulate those career numbers and is on pace to be the first league player to finish his career with 1,500 points, 750 rebounds and 250 blocks.
FREE AND EASY: Led by Sykes, Green Bay led the Horizon League in free-throw percentage in conference play, shooting 75.2 percent from the charity stripe. Due to both quantity and quality, Sykes was a major reason why. The 5-foot-11 point guard raised his free-throw percentage by nearly 15 percent from 2011-12, hitting 81.5 percent. Sykes got to the line with great regularity, leading the Horizon League and breaking the school record for free throws made in a season with 159. Brown also made more than 100 free throws (109) and enters the 2013-14 season just outside of the program’s top-10 with 304 career free throws made.
WELCOMING WISCONSIN: On Saturday, Nov. 16, Green Bay will welcome Wisconsin back to the Resch Center. The Big Ten squad from Madison last played in Green Bay in 2009, with the Phoenix posting an 88-84 overtime victory, the program’s lone win in 19 meetings in the series. It will be Green Bay’s fourth home game in the series, including the third played at the Resch Center. The Wisconsin and Virginia games mark the second time Green Bay has ever hosted two BCS conference opponents in the same season (Wisconsin and Kansas State in 2002-03).
BENNETT’S RETURN: Phoenix Hall of Famer and all-time leading scorer Tony Bennett will return to Green Bay on Saturday, Dec. 8. This time, Bennett will be the opposition as the head coach of Virginia. The Cavaliers visit the Resch Center after Green Bay has traveled to Charlottesville in each of the past two seasons. Playing for Green Bay from 1988-92, Bennett scored 2,285 points in a Phoenix uniform. The lefty is also tops the program’s record books in field goals made (773), field goals attempted (1,501), three-point field goals made (290), three-point field goal percentage (.497) and assists (601).
ALASKAN ADVENTURE: For the first time in 20 seasons, Green Bay will travel to Anchorage, Alaska to play in the Great Alaska Shootout. The tournament runs from Nov. 27-30, with the Phoenix opening the tournament on Nov. 28 against Pepperdine. The eight-team field also includes Denver and Harvard on Green Bay’s side of the bracket and TCU, Tulsa, Indiana State and Alaska Anchorage on the other half. In 1993, Green Bay went 1-2 in the tournament and finished in sixth place.
All single-game tickets for the 2013-14 men’s basketball season are on sale now at all Ticket Star locations. For more information about season tickets, ticket packages and more, please visit the ticketing page at GreenBayPhoenix.com.
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