SAN ANTONIO (Nov. 13, 2015) – The Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU) men's basketball season begins the 2015-2016 season with a new motto: Out Work. The Saints will attempt to do just that – outwork their opponents on their way to their goal of reaching the NAIA National Tournament.
The Saints begin the season hoping to carry over momentum from a season ago when they shared the Red River Athletic Conference (RRAC) title and made a run to the Sweet 16 of the NAIA National Tournament. OLLU is ranked No. 25 in the NAIA Men's Basketball Coaches' Top 25 Preseason Poll released in October.
Head Coach Ryan Wall said, "Our first goal is to win our conference outright and match what we did last year making it to the Sweet 16, but our ultimate goal is to win the national championship."
|Head Coach Ryan Wall talks about the 2015-2016 season.|
The Saints will begin the nonconference portion of their schedule with a five-game road stretch in November. OLLU will first travel south to take on NCAA Division I member Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi on Nov. 13. On Nov. 20, the Saints will take on No. 12-ranked Wayland Baptist University. The following day they will take on NCAA Division II Lubbock Christian University. Additionally the Saints will travel to Oklahoma to take on Oklahoma City University, which received votes in the top 25 poll, and the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma on Nov. 24 and 25 respectively.
Wall commented, "We try to face teams of high caliber to find out what kind of team we are early in the season. We find out our weaknesses and our strengths. We have a tough nonconference to prepare us for conference. We play teams of that caliber to find out what we need to work on, who we are and our identity."
The home opener for the Saints will be on Dec. 1 when they host North American University. Three days later they will host RRAC foe Paul Quinn College. On Dec. 5, the Saints will travel to Stephenville, Texas to take on the top-ranked team at the NCAA DII level – Tarleton State University.
Other nonconference games the Saints scheduled include at University of the Incarnate Word on Dec. 15, at Stephen F. Austin State University on Dec. 19, and at University of Texas Rio Grande Valley on Jan. 2 – all NCAA DI opponents.
OLLU will open its RRAC schedule with back-to-back games against No. 14 LSU-Shreveport on Dec. 11 and No. 5 LSU-Alexandria on Dec. 12.
"LSUA is going to be really good," Wall said. "They get everybody back plus they added some."
Last season, the Saints and Generals shared the regular season title after splitting both regular season matchups. The teams met once again in the conference tournament championship game with the Generals edging the Saints on a last second 3-point shot in overtime.
The Generals are favored to take the top spot in the conference after receiving all 10 votes in the conference preseason poll. LSU-Shreveport is picked to finish second while OLLU and Langston University are tied for third.
"Those are just opinions from the coaches," Wall said. "We just have to work hard and come out and prove those people wrong."
Langston just missed out on the top 25 poll, but did receive votes.
According to Wall the competitive level of the RRAC is very high.
"Our league is getting better from top to bottom so there won't be any days off. Every weekend will be a tough road or home game," Wall said.
Both Collins and Gaizauskas are some of the toughest and most active players on the squad according to Wall.
"Brandell is one of our toughest players and he will be all over the place. He's very athletic and can help us both inside and out," Wall said. "Marty plays very hard and he will help us stay mentally tough in the game. He's got a very high motor."
New juniors are Joe Jackson (JR/San Antonio, Texas), Dilepso Blanco (JR/Passaic, N.J.), Olajuwon Garner (JR/Pittsburg, Calif.), Dav'vin Hill (JR/Victoria, Texas), who redshirted last season, Jordan Phelps (JR/Broken Arrow, Okla.) and Kellen Sweetwyne (JR/Hayward, Calif.).
"Joe will have a key role in how successful we are this year," Wall commented. "He can play inside out, he can shoot the ball. He is very skilled and can cover a lot of ground in our press."
Blanco is a junior college transfer. "Dilepso might be our best on ball defender," Wall said.
Garner is a "sharp shooter" according to Wall. "Olajuwon came here from California to make shots," he said.
Hill see the court this season after redshirting all of last season. "He's come in with a lot of energy and I expect him to have a pretty good year."
Phelps will also play an important role for the Saints in the shooting game. "He's been playing pretty well in practice. He's another sharp shooter for us," Wall commented.
Sweetwyne will help the Saints in the physicality of the game. "Kellen has some meat on him so he can get in there and bang with the big boys," Wall said.
The Saints will have one new senior, Alex Sattley (SR/Portland, Ore.). "He's going to come in here and be a leader for us as a senior," Wall said. "He'll be important both offensively and defensively."
The Saints will feature five players who are returning from a season ago. Darion Brown (SO/Alexandria, La.) has been named team captain for his sophomore season.
"Darion had a fantastic freshman season," Wall said. "I thought he was the best point guard in the conference and I hope that he will build on his season last year."
Brown will be the feature point guard along with newcomer Blanco.
Anze Kos (JR/Ljubljana, Slovenia) returns for his junior season. Wall expects him to have a good year for the Saints. "Anze didn't play much for us last year, but I expect him to step up and make some key shots for us this year," he said.
Both will be leaders for the team.
"I expect Anthony to have a great year. He's come back in shape and he's leading the team. I expect big things from him," Wall commented.
"Wood is our toughest player," Wall said. "He makes us go. He's the key to why we do what we do."
The senior captain is the reason behind OLLU's new motto. "Wood has been in my program for three years now and he knows how hard we play," Wall said. "We always hang our hat on outworking the other team."
"It's been a process, and everyone is starting to buy in and once everybody has bought in to outwork and we're on the same page, it might be pretty scary," Wall added.
Wood-Dvorak will help fill the void of some key losses for the Saints from a season ago, Daniel Skinner and De'Quentin Greer.
Skinner was an NAIA All-American while Greer was a First Team All-Conference selection.
New to the coaching staff is assistant coach Robert Taylor-Ford. Ford joins the Saints from Paris Junior College. "Coach Ford brings a lot of experience from the junior college level," Wall said. "He'll have a big impact on how we do this year."
Also returning for the Saints is assistant coach William Bell.
Live-streaming, live stats and social media
All home games will be broadcast live on www.youtube.com/OLLUSaints with play-by-play action provided by Michael Thompson, television studio technician at OLLU. In addition, live stats will be available for all home matches. Links will be available on the Saints web site, and on the official Saints social media sites, including Twitter (OLLUSaints), Facebook (OLLUSaintsAthletics), Instragram (OLLUniversity_Saints) and SnapChat (OLLUSaints).