Tuesday's game against Culver-Stockton College served its purpose and then some. Coach Steve Hawkins' Western Michigan University men's basketball team got a breather from its fourth-toughest nonconference schedule nationally and had a chance to defend against an offense similar to the Broncos' next opponent, Northern Illinois. The Broncos (5-8) used a 12-0 run to start the game and 52 percent shooting from the field to knock off the Division II National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Wildcats (6-9), 83-52, with bench players seeing significant minutes at University Arena.
Hawkins was pleased that his club's win was executed the right way and that the entire roster saw valuable action. ``As you get ready for conference play, the last thing we wanted to do was back into the game (with Northern Illinois),'' Hawkins said about preparing to open Mid-American Conference play Saturday in DeKalb, Ill. ``We wanted to play everybody and play everybody well. I think we got those things accomplished tonight.'' The reserves accounted for 54 points and 129 minutes. And true freshman Jon Workman played his way out of Hawkins' doghouse. Workman, who had started earlier in the year but was relegated to the pine after a few poor practices, scored 10 points and snagged five rebounds in 16 minutes. But it was his physical play that impressed his coach the most.
``I was really happy with Jon,'' Hawkins said. ``Jon is a very talented freshman, but he's got to learn how to be a college basketball player. A college player has to learn to be more physical and work on every possession and working away from the ball. ``I got mad at Jon a few weeks ago and kicked him out of a practice for not rebounding the ball. He's never been kicked out of a practice before and that got his attention a little bit.'' The 6-foot-9 LaGrange, Ind., native and Lakeland High School graduate was one of the top recruits in the state his junior year but dropped off a bit in his senior campaign. But Workman is showing signs that he understands what it takes to play at this level.
``A few weeks ago I had a couple bad practices and I think coach Hawk was trying to send a message to me,'' Workman said. ``He was just letting me know I need to go hard every day. That was in the back of my mind (tonight).'' Hawkins added that a one-on-one meeting with Workman in an airport on the way home from North Carolina helped the two come to terms. ``I sat down with (Workman) at a meal and I said `Sit down here, do I have your attention now?''' Hawkins said. ``(Workman) said `Yeah, coach.' I told him that he has the potential to be an all-conference player before his career is over with. If I allowed him to be anything else, then I'm selling him short.''
Sophomore Derek Drews surprised none with his five-of-seven shooting from behind the arc but, more importantly, he proved that a nagging ankle injury that has limited his playing time this season is nearly healed. Drews finished with a career-best and game-high 17 points and six rebounds in 16 minutes and displayed the ability to put lateral pressure on his ankle to be more of an asset on defense.
``(Before tonight) I recognized that (Drews) was a real liability out there on defense because he couldn't move from side to side,'' Hawkins said. ``I'd pull him out of the game and then I had a bunch of screaming fans yelling at me and sending me e-mails because Drew isn't getting enough playing time when we need shooting. ``We can see him shoot like this every day in practice and I was much more impressed with his defense tonight.'' Drews connected on his first four 3-pointers early in the first half to give WMU a 26-6 advantage en route to a 47-25 halftime lead. Senior center Joe Reitz scored 16 points in 13 minutes and came up three rebounds short of his fourth-straight double-double.
Comments about anything?Thomas R. Wolf, Jr. <firstname.lastname@example.org>