Men’s basketball faces season with optimism, energy

Joe Stuart

The Linfield men’s basketball program has definitely taken its fair share of hard knocks in recent history.

The Wildcats are coming off a 4-21 season in 2014-2015 and have only recorded two winning records in the last ten seasons. But from the point of view of third year head coach Shanan Rosenberg, there will soon be a change in this pattern.

“I think we feel like we can be a playoff team. We’d like to finish in the top four in the conference,” Rosenberg said.

“This is the first year where we don’t feel like we’re building from scratch. We’ve definitely got some pieces in place that are going to give us a chance to climb up the league.”

Players like forward Jordan Clark, ’18, guard Chase Walker, ’18, and center Mason Rodby,’17, are players who played key minutes last season and will be some of the important pieces on this young Wildcats squad that features nine incoming players.

Rosenberg added three transfer guards to shore up a backcourt that struggled to hold its own in the Northwest Conference last year.

Possibly the biggest incoming name to watch for this season is transfer point guard Austin Daniels, ’17, who has excellent quickness, speed and ball-handling ability for the Division III level.

There are also many strong freshmen this year as well.

“We have six freshmen who I think could all play for us. Obviously some are more ready-made than others, but we’ve got six that are pretty darn good,” Rosenberg said.

From the new freshmen recruits, one of the most highly-anticipated players is Riley Bruil, ’19, from Sumner High School in Lake Tapps, Washington.

Bruil was a three-year team captain, three-time South Puget Sound League all-star and the SPSL MVP following his junior year. He brings to Linfield an all-around skills set, particularly excelling in shooting, defense and play-making ability.

Rosenberg plans to run a very fast-paced, aggressive play style this season. “We want to play fast on both sides of the floor, the most tenacity and the most aggressive mindset in the conference,” Rosenberg said.

“It’s not really run-and-gun,” he said. “It’s really more… ‘sprint and be intelligent, sprint and be mindful.’”

This new play style will involve press and full-court defense and a wide open, team oriented defense. With how fast-paced the ’Cats plan to go, they will likely have a rotation with ten or more players getting regular minutes and consistent scoring numbers.

“We’re looking at a team right now that I think could have five players in double-digit scoring and even eight or nine guys in the six to fourteen point range,” Rosenberg said.

As far as fixing their mistakes from last year, Rosenberg believes the biggest issue is being able to finish games.

“We need to take games where we have a lead three quarters of the way through the game and be able to close it. I think this team is going to be put in a number of opportunities to win games it’s just going to come down to whether or not we can close them out,” Rosenberg said.

Facing this season, it would be nice to see the Wildcats return to the glory days of the 1960’s and 70’s, when they were coached by Linfield legend Ted Wilson, after the run of bad years lately.

But the return of Linfield being a powerhouse team may not be this year, but will certainly be in the next few years. However, one thing is for sure: Rosenberg’s young, fast-paced team will be one of the most fun to watch in the Northwest Conference.