BY MURRAY GLEFFE
DE PERE – Gary Grzesk is in his 13th season coaching the St. Norbert Green Knights’ men’s basketball team.
He is the second-winningest coach in the history of the school, and under his tutelage, the team has made the NCAA tournament six of his first 12 years.
The Green Knights are coming off a 19-7 season overall, including 14-4 in the Midwest Conference. St. Norbert lost a 22-point game to Ripon in the tourney’s semifinals a year ago.
“Last year was a different year,” said Grzesk. “We had a lot of moving parts with injuries, and some of our main players were consistent in stretches and not so much in other games. It was definitely not as smooth sailing as compared to our championship teams. We lost five games to Ripon and Monmouth. Sometimes people don’t realize that those games are won and lost by a handful of possessions that ultimately make the difference between you finishing first or third in conference play.”
The team loses three of its top scorers from 2017, but Grzesk holds out optimism that it can still be a great season.
“Obviously when you lose players such as Mitchell Reinthaler, DJ DeValk, Taylor Penn, and Brian Luteyn, it’s hard,” said Grzesk. “DJ was a four-year starter that ran our offense well. Mitchell was a versatile player that could hit from outside or take you inside and beat you on the block. Taylor and Brian are graduating at the semester and will be unavailable to play.”
The 2018 version will still have pieces in place to make a conference run.
Returning off-guard Wade Geenen (Pulaski) and Connor Curtis (Green Bay Preble) return for their sophomore campaigns after each made a huge splash as freshmen.
Geenen averaged 6.6 points per game, while Curtis chipped in with 10.8 but was limited after an injury forced him to sit nine contests.
“Connor and Wade are two guys that have the most game experience out of anybody on this team,” added Grzesk. “Wade doesn’t past the eye test to most coaches, but he is the heart and soul of our program. He is an excellent shooter, has been working on taking the ball to the basket and finishing around the rim with taller players in his path. Connor has a chance to be one of the better big kids in our conference. He has bulked up to around 235 and is physically strong around the hoop. He will get a lot of touches for us this season.”
Geenen is 5-foot-11 and weighs just 160 pounds.
Other returnees looking to make an impact include Joe Lemon, Joe Ciriacks, Riley Haas, Jared Murphy and Drew Yetka.
Two newcomers that could get into Grzesk’s rotation of players are Jayland Peterson of Chicago and local product Patrick Danen.
Danen was a standout at De Pere the past four years and brings a 6-foot-8, 215-pound frame to the team.
The offensive and defensive schemes won’t change with Grzesk at the helm.
He is a disciple of Dick Bennett’s in-your-face, man-to-man defense that he played at UWGB during the 1990s.
“We run a motion offense that values the basketball, with unselfishness being the keyword on every possession,” said Grzesk. “Defensively, we need to shine this year, especially with an unknown lack of scorers. We want to force our opponents to have to make a tough shot every trip down.”
With the new Mulva Family Fitness and Sports Center offering a great seat everywhere in the gym, and a ticket price that is low, the Green Knights offer a brand of basketball where you can see home-grown talent and check out players from around the state and elsewhere.
“It’s an affordable, exciting product that lends itself to winning games and hopefully winning more championships moving forward,” said Grzesk. “You always have to prepare to beat your opponents in the film room and in practice each and every time you are around these players. Consistency is a byproduct that I learned from my time in college and I have followed that path at St. Norbert.”
For a full team roster, log on to snc.edu/athletics/basketballm/roster. To view the schedule, navigate to snc.edu/athletics/basketballm/schedule.