Kalamazoo Gazette Article

January 19, 2008

Mike Farrell / Special to the Gazette

Article from mlive.com .....

Nothing rec-league about him
by Graham Couch / Kalamazoo Gazette
Saturday January 19, 2008, 1:01 AM

Ex-Parchment star Wolf respected walk-on at WMU

KALAMAZOO -- Alex Wolf hears it at the rec center. His teammates hear it all over campus. "If Alex could make the team, I'm sure I could get out there," students say, mistaking his 5-foot-11 every-man frame and walk-on status on Western Michigan University's men's basketball team as a license to lose grip on reality. "Kids always want a piece of me and want to play against me," Wolf said. "That's fine, come out here and practice. It's a lot harder than people think it is. Whatever, I'm down for one-on-one."

In the 16 months since he joined WMU's program, Wolf's teammates have figured out to be careful about wishing for such a proposition. Once a prolific scorer at Parchment High School, Wolf passed up opportunities to be a standout at smaller programs -- including Kalamazoo College -- to live out his dream of playing for the Broncos. "I think he really earned my respect during two-a-days early in the year," guard David Kool said. "He came at guys as hard as we go at everybody else. We felt like he belonged and he started to really play well."

Belonging at the Division I level means bucking the odds for someone like Wolf. When he first expressed interest, Broncos coach Steve Hawkins "painted a bleak" picture for Wolf and his family -- about playing time, brutal practices and the pitfalls of being a local kid stuck to the bench -- "and he didn't even blink," Hawkins said of Wolf's desire to play at WMU. Wolf redshirted last season and practiced but didn't dress for home games or travel with team to road games, making most of the trips in his own car.

"Last year, I almost couldn't practice with the guys in a full-court (game)," said Wolf, who weighed in at 228 then and has shed more than 30 pounds to be a point guard instead of "fullback." "Everything was a little too fast for me. Now it's starting to just come." Even for a walk-on who's played just 13 minutes this season -- scoring five points, with two assists and two rebounds in four games -- that may be an understatement.

Hawkins considers Wolf his third option at point guard (behind Michael Redell and Kool), ahead of scholarship 2-guard Andre Ricks, who's quicker and has experience at the point. And Wolf did nothing to dissuade Hawkins' trust in a surprise second-half start at Valparaiso on Nov. 28. After an uninspiring first half by the regulars, Hawkins turned to Wolf to lead his bottom five. "Right in the beginning it was a little bit of shock," said Wolf, who played the first five minutes, knocking down 1 of 2 free throws and dishing out an assist, without a turnover. "Coach comes in and he looks at Silver (Laku) and he looks at 'Telle (Martelle McLemore), he says, 'Are you guys ready to get in the game?' ... Then he walked away. I was sitting there thinking, 'Well, he might come back.' He comes back, 'We're starting a new five! Wolf you're at the 1!.' I was like, 'Wow.' "That first time down the court I was pretty tight."

Hawkins doesn't know Wolf's ceiling in the program. Senior walk-on Derek Fracalossi has carved a regular spot in the rotation for most of his career and if Wolf can continue to improve his ball-handling, he'll have a chance, Hawkins said, at some point, to do the same. For now, Wolf will settle for making life miserable in practice for his fellow guards -- Kool, Ricks and Redell were chastised for poor defense at a recent practice by assistant Cornell Mann, though it was mostly the fault of Wolf's hot hand. "When stuff like that happens ... there's nothing really to say. I get excited," Wolf said smiling. "I really just love the game. I like basketball. I love being around it. I wouldn't mind passing the entire practice, just passing, just to be around the game. ... I'm pretty much just going to work and see what happens. I like it here."

Courtesy: GS Photo

Second article from mlive.com Bronco Insider .....

Wolf could play a meaningful role before he's done at WMU
by Graham Couch / Kalamazoo Gazette
Saturday January 19, 2008, 1:17 AM

Steve Hawkins isn't quite sure what role, if any, Alex Wolf may eventually have with the Broncos, other than fan-favorite and master of mop-up duty. He does think the redshirt-freshman walk-on point guard has a chance to be a rotation guy before he's done and said this week he'd put Wolf in as the backup, over Andre Ricks, should anything happen to David Kool or Michael Redell.

That's a change from earlier this year. Hawkins turned to Ricks to spell Kool when Redell was in serious foul trouble in the first half against SIU -- and I'm sure, despite singing Wolf's praises -- he'd be tempted to do so again in a similar situation. Still, I don't doubt that Hawkins thinks Wolf can impact the program in ways other than being a cheerleader and practice player. He's been solid in every appearance, with very few obvious mistakes.

Next year, with the addition of touted freshman Mike Douglas and the return of Redell and Kool, Wolf's role is likely to remain mostly in practice. But in 2009-10, when Wolf is a junior and Redell has graduated, I can see him as Douglas' backup -- especially if WMU's offense works better in 2008-09 with Kool almost exclusively at off guard. That'll all depend on how much Wolf improves, and how incoming players such as Demetrius Ward, a combo guard whom I haven't seen play, fit into the puzzle. From what I've seen of Wolf in practice, he's already light years ahead of last year (and significantly lighter around the waistline). He can score at the Division I level (Kool, Ricks and Redell know this all too well) and run the offense under control. If Wolf keeps getting better at handling extreme ball pressure, he could be a 10-minute per game player for a couple of seasons. That would be a pretty good bargain for WMU. This guy wasn't even a preferred walk-on.

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Thomas R. Wolf, Jr. <wmuwolf@gmail.com>

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