During the first season of NAIA competition Lawrence Tech players learned what is needed to be good team players at the collegiate level.
Despite a 2-20 Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference record, men’s basketball Head Coach Tom Kempf is pleased with Lawrence Technological University’s return to the hardwood after 48 years.
During the 1940s and early 1950s the Blue Devils were a basketball powerhouse. This season’s overall record of 3-27 starts the second chapter of LTU men’s basketball legacy.
“I really felt we accomplished our primary goal for this initial year of competition, to be a better team at the end of the year than we were at the beginning,” said Kempf. “There is no question in my mind that we did this. Our freshmen grew up because of the experience of playing so many minutes and the few older players eventually integrated their skills into the fabric of the emerging team. We did not win many games, but we learned to compete as a team. Our failures were due to the inexperience both age-wise and team-wise, but were diminished as the season went on because the players kept a firm eye on the goal rather than the disappointing moments they went through.”
For his efforts, Kempf was named Champions of Character Coach and freshman guard Jon Harden (St. Johns, MI) was named to the Champions of Character Team.
Stats wise, LTU finished fifth with 190 three-pointers, sixth in blocking shots with 88, sixth in defensive scoring with 1,972 points and 12th in offensive scoring with 1,482 points. The Blue Devils finished 10th with a free-throw percentage of 65.9 percent and 12thwith a field-goal percentage of 35.6 percent. The team’s defense placed ninth in field-goal percentage with 43.6 percent. LTU was also ninth in assists with 300.
After 30 games, junior guard Anthony Sisson (Lapeer, MI) placed 23rd in scoring with 322 points and freshman guard Jake Mullin (Petoskey, MI) finished 29th with 282 points. Sisson also finished seventh in free-throw percentage with 80.5 percent, and Mullin was in seventh place for 946 minutes played. Freshman forward Jon Osantowski (Grandville, MI) placed second with 40 blocked shots and 15th in rebounding with 121 in 25 games.
In the three-pointer category, Sisson placed fourth with 66 and Mullin seventh with 57. Mullin also placed 10th with a 36.5 three-point field-goal percentage.
“They now know what each of them needs to improve upon as an individual, as well as what we need to be better at as a team in order to compete more successfully next year,” said Kempf. “Most of them had no idea how different college basketball was going to be from high school ball, and none of them had played on the same team together. So they had no understanding of how they would fit together as a team. Now they do.”
Kempf said the three wins were his highlights for the season. “The first win because it was exactly that, the first in 48 years and our first as a team. The last, because we accomplished it with only seven players available, and it represented perhaps what was the ultimate highlight of the season for me as a coach.
“The fact that as difficult as it was for everyone to absorb each defeat, not one of these players ever gave up on himself or the team at any time throughout the year. As a result, we became a unit, a team that had to be respected by our opponents no matter what our record or statistics said. Best of all,” said the coach, “no one can wait for next year.”