Last night, the 2011-12 starting small forward for Indiana Tech drained a three-pointer at the buzzer to knock of a pesky Taylor squad in Upland 54-53. What makes this situation strange is that athletic, perimeter-oriented wing player (Melvin Brooks) is the 2012-13 starting center for the Warriors.
Yes, it's going to be an unusual year at Indiana Tech, but more than likely, the level of success will remain a constant.
“We're just different,” third-year coach Al Grushkin said in comparing last year's team to this season's. “We are interesting.”
A year ago, Indiana Tech had arguably the best post tandem in NAIA Division II in All-American center Rodney Bartholomew (recently drafted by the Tulsa 66ers of the NBADL) and Chris Ware.
“Last year we were an SEC football on a basketball court,” Grushkin said. “We we're a smash-mouth basketball.”
And this season?
“Now we have to play a little bit more loose and a little bit more fluid,” Grushkin said.
The Warriors are going with the 6-foot-5 forward Brooks in the post, even though his skill set probably lends him to being more of a wing-type player. But hey, 25th-ranked Indiana Tech is 4-0 after the win over the Trojans and after its first three games; Grushkin's gang was second in the nation in blocked shots.
“Interesting would be a real good term to describe us,” Grushkin laughed.
What isn't surprising, however, is that Grushkin's team is winning. The veteran coach has won at Indiana Tech – and won big – since he arrived in town. In his first season with the Warriors he guided them to 22 victories, 11 more than the previous season. Last year, his team won 23 games and qualified for the NAIA National Tournament.
Having experience should pay dividends for Grushkin because he's seen virtually every offense ever concocted in a coaches' office, and that will help as he devises a new scheme to fit his much smaller personnel.
“We'll have to open up the floor more,” Grushkin said. “We'll have to do things to get the kids driving the ball more.”
Whatever Grushkin has devised, it's working and if you didn't draft Brooks with the first pick of your NAIA basketball fantasy draft, you made a huge mistake in judgment.
The Memphis native is averaging over 20 points per game and an astounding 17 rebounds per outing. If Brooks continues at this rate, it'll be the third consecutive season that an Indiana Tech player (Bartholomew each of the past two seasons) leads the nation in rebounding.
He is joined in the lineup by 6-foot-3 senior Jordan Hickman (10 points and 2.67 assists per game), who was named to the All-WHAC preseason team.
Another versatile 6-foot-3 player is junior Antonio Landers (10 points and 2.67 assists per game), who transferred to Indiana Tech after a nice career at John Wood Community College.
Antonio Cannon (5-foot-11 senior) is scoring in double figures (10 points per game) in the backcourt, and he is joined by 6-foot-1 junior Jeff Hoskins (4.67 assists and nine points per game).
To add a shooting touch to this miniature squad, Grushkin landed Goshen College transfer 6-foot-2 sophomore Kody Chandler, who is knocking down nearly 47 percent of his three-point shots.
Adding some size and presence inside is 6-foot-6, 230-pound junior Antwaun Cathey (six points and five rebounds per game).
“The kids are trying and we're still guarding hard,” Grushkin said. “We're just not very big.”