For men's basketball coaches Chad LaCross and Al Grushkin, only so many questions can be answered in practices, scrimmages and open gyms.
So when LaCross' Saint Francis Cougars and Grushkin's Indiana Tech Warriors meet tonight at Saint Francis with tipoff set for 7:30, each coach will see more of what his team has as both attempt to replace significant cogs from last year's group.
For Saint Francis, three of the top five starters from a year ago are gone. But with NAIA All-American Scott Kohne back at the forward position after averaging 18.2 points per game, the Cougars have a go-to player to build around beginning tonight in their season opener.
Sophomore Kyle Sovine will likely get more playing time up front, with junior forward transfer Austin Fox and junior guard/forward Josh Hogan also expected to contribute.
“I like the mix we have,” LaCross said. “We have a lot of new guys, a lot of different guys in what they can do.”
Hogan will be a key for Saint Francis. Last year he entered the starting lineup midway into the season and finished second on the team in scoring, averaging 9.9 points a game.
“When he entered the starting lineup, he averaged 14-15 points per game,” LaCross said. “In the second half (of the season) he had a lot of confidence. He could get to the basket and became a pretty big perimeter threat.”
Indiana Tech has even more production to replace, with all but three players gone from a squad that won 21 games last season.
One of those who will be looked upon to lead the Warriors offensively is Snider product Nick Lewis. The junior guard averaged 2.4 points in nine games last season but scored 18 points in Indiana Tech's season opener Saturday against Wilberforce, including 14 of 18 from the free-throw line.
“Nick Lewis can get to the basket and get to it in a hurry,” LaCross said.
Grushkin also returns senior guard Jeff Hoskins, who started all 31 games last season, and forward Antwan Cathey.
Junior transfer Rontray Chavis, a 6-foot-4 forward, could emerge as the biggest scoring threat for Indiana Tech after dropping 29 points on Wilberforce.
“(Indiana Tech) has some pretty skilled guys, maybe more offensively than they have in the past,” LaCross said. “They have a number of different weapons; we just need to focus on what we do.”
An early-season matchup against such a tough opponent will pay dividends for both squads, and also speed up the learning process for the coaches on learning what the strengths and weaknesses of their rosters are.
“It is hard to say what we have right now,” LaCross said. “Part of the reason we want to play (Indiana Tech) and play them early is to see where our team is heading.”