Vikings improve depth and height
Basketball is one endeavor where size does matter, both in the number of quality players available and in their physical packages.
"Our depth was a big issue, and size," in the Missouri Valley College men's team's 11-17 showing in 2009, according to head coach Chad Lance. "Most important was consistent perimeter shooting, which I think our depth and size this year will improve."
The Vikings lost a pair of ballhandlers and defensive hawks from last year in guards Josh Boswell and Craig Jones, but bring back all-Heart of America Conference senior forwards Rouven Haenig and Roc Rogers.
While both players are sound rebounders, they better fit the "four" spot than the post in which they were often assigned a year ago. Rouven can step outside and hit the three, while Rogers -- despite his 6-3 frame -- is a strong presence near the rim and possesses a mid-range jumper.
"Both present huge match-up problems" for opponents, Lance said. "In our league, the fours and fives are plodders, and that gives us a tremendous advantage."
Instead of small forwards in the post, Valley now has true centers in 6-foot-9 junior Toray Henry from Antigua and 6-8 junior Salam Omar of France.
Henry is the "ultimate detail guy -- screening, rebounding and altering shots," Lance noted. Omar is long enough to play either post, while 6-5 senior J.D. DeVault is an athletic forward who put together an impressive second semester a year ago.
The Vikings have two experienced guards, with senior Bryant Porter at the point and 6-4 senior Patrick McDermott on the wing. McDermott and Rogers have been providing leadership for a squad which hopes to jell early.
"Early in the season we've shown some chemistry," Lance said, including during a two-point exhibition win over a State Fair Community College team with three big NCAA Division I prospects. "That could change once playing time gets distributed."
There are going to be several perimeter players vying for spots. Lance described junior Alonzo Lewis as a "pass-first -- and maybe pass second, third and fourth" -- playmaker, while with 6-5 junior Tristian Hill and 6-3 junior Cooper Trumbo at shooting guard "we quickly got bigger at that position."
"We can do more things," Lance said of the height upgrade. "We can get into our offense quicker and guys can match up on defense."
Former Marshall standout Randy Ritter, a junior who has been plagued by injuries, is finally healthy enough to display his abilities and senior Melvin Roberts is another player who has been in the system a while.
"You find out who plays well together," Lance explained the task early in the campaign, which will include three tournaments. "We have to find the eight or nine in our rotation, and find out who can consistently, night in and night out, do their job."
Fortunately, the Vikings' leaders are also the hardest workers on the floor, which should engender positive attitudes. However, if Valley is to climb from ninth place to the league's first division, it's going to have to do better than last year's 69.5 points per game and HAAC-worst 41.5 field-goal percentage.
"We've added guys who can score, both inside and outside," Lance said. "Defensively, we're still going to be good, but we've added scorers."