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Shepherd men looking for success

November 15, 2003|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Shepherd basketball coach Ken Tyler isn't one to rub rabbits' feet and collect troll dolls.

Instead, Tyler is turning to the calendar - and past history - to get this year's edition of the Rams down to the path of prosperity.

"This is my third year at the helm here and I'm trying to view it as a special or turning point year," Tyler said Thursday at Shepherd College's annual winter sports media day gathering.

"At Albright (College, Tyler's previous job), the third year was a charm. Our first two years, we struggled with losing records and then we signed players. The third year we were picked to finish sixth and jumped out to a 10-4 record for first place and never looked back."

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Tyler is planning and hoping to return to that charmed life with Shepherd this season. It would be a repeat of his past track record and at the same time - and maybe more importantly - put Shepherd's program back into the promience it used to enjoy.

"These are all our players. There is no one left from the previous coach's program," Tyler said. "We can leave our imprint on the program now. I bring this up - and it's not that we are happy about it - but this is the 10th anniversary since Shepherd has had a winning record. That's an awful long time and we say 'That's long enough.'"

The total Tyler team will feature more firepower and strong defense while employing a new motion offense to take advantage of the Rams' scoring capabilities. It's vast differences meeting a rock-hardened foundation that Tyler has poured over the first two seasons.

"I'm always committed to the defensive philosophy - to be aggressive, play the percentages and not be a pressing or gambling team," Tyler said. "The cornerstone will be our man-to-man defense. We are going to run a motion offense, which will be a change for me. But I believe it fits the needs and strengths of our players."

Shepherd's team will revolve around Mike Jennings, the former Hagerstown Junior College star who is the only senior returning from last year's 12-17 team. Jennings averaged 19 points per game.

"Mark is our unquestioned leader," Tyler said. "He is a wonderfully gifted player who is talented enough to be Division I mid-major type athlete."

But Jennings' and Shepherd's calvary comes in the form of a transfer and a redshirt freshman. Brady Catlett, a former Hedgesville star who transferred from New Hampshire, will start at shooting guard while Ross Mitchell, who is coming off an ACL injury, will start at point guard.

"Catlett is explosive and can finish inside. He likes to shoot inside but can shoot it deep," Tyler said. "I'm learning to trust Brady's shooting. Mitchell is a Steve Nash type player that is 100 percent motion and energy."

Inside, Tyler is looking for a combination of speed and power to get the Rams off the glass and starting in the other direction. The surprise starter at power foward is sophomore Danley Shank, a Chambersburg, Pa., graduate. Meanwhile the pivot will be a combination of players, starting with junior transfer Esosa Imoisili at 6-foot-8.

"Shank has really improved more than any player," Tyler said. "He's our secret weapon because of his diversity. He's a little smaller than most players in that position, but we hope his quickness can tire the other team's players out. Imoisili has been getting better every day and is a great shot blocker.

Shepherd will show depth in reserve with Mark Bressan at the point, Chad Myers at shooting guard and Jaakko Koivula and Laurynas Inokaitis on the inside. The Rams will be expecting more help when guard Ron Rheinhardt and 7-4 center Matt Slaninka return from injuries.

Shepherd enters the season with specific goals of improvement and if that happens, then basketball will once again charming on the Shepherd campus.

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