When the 2015-2016 men’s basketball team tipped-off their season Nov. 4, half of the roster played in their first game as Foresters.
Following the previous season, the team lost a pair of seniors – Tyler Ault and Alec Peterson – to graduation, while five other players did not return to the team. Despite the turnover, the team’s top two scorers – juniors Derek Hinen and Daniel Woll — from 2014-2015, are still in forest green and white.
Hinen and Woll averaged 17 and 15 points, respectively, in stellar sophomore seasons. Woll was also the top rebounder last year, collecting an average of seven per contest.
The duo, along with fellow junior Drew Benedict, hail from Columbia City High School, and the three will team-up to lead a senior-less roster.
Head coach Ty Platt said the trio’s roles are “very important” and that they realize their team requires “their best every day.”
Austin Karazsia, a 6’ 8” forward transfer from Division I University of South Alabama, joined the rank of juniors this season. He appeared in 43 games over two years for the Jaguars.
“Austin is a top notch person,” Platt said. “He’s a great student, is a solid Christian and leads by example. We are glad he’s a Forester.”
In his first five contests as a Forester, he scored nearly eight points per contest.
“I see myself contributing the most to the team in the post position,” Karazsia said. “By playing alongside Daniel Woll and Trevor Lockwood, I feel like we all compliment each other well.”
Three sophomores – Kyle Platt, Devon Merder and Trevor Lockwood – also return for the Foresters this season. Platt has made his way into the starting lineup, tallying 6.8 points a game. Merder is coming off the bench to chip in 6.6 points a night. Lockwood posted his first career double-double Nov. 10 against Olivet Nazarene and is averaging 10 points and five boards each game.
“They were a big team,” Lockwood said of Olivet. “My coaches motivated me to step up to the challenge of rebounding. I shot well … and my teammates found me.”
Joining the sophomore class is Kurt Siegel, who attended the university as a freshman, but joined the Foresters this season.
Freshmen Mason Coverstone, Kyle Hartman, Zach Rutland and Josh Rutland round out the Forester roster. Coverstone and Hartman are both local talents – from Columbia City and Bishop Luers High School, respectively.
Zach Rutland has assumed the role of starting point guard and has registered the third-most minutes among the team in the first five games. He is averaging 9.8 points.
“Zach is extremely talented at the point guard position,” Platt said. “He and Kyle Hartman both bring a toughness factor that our team needs, [and] they both know how to distribute and score the ball.”
In the first game of the season, the Foresters knocked off RV Saint Xavier University, 84-70. Woll, Hinen, Karazsia and Platt all posted double-digit point totals in a well-balanced offensive attack. Woll led all scorers with 30.
The team’s next two opponents, #1 Cornerstone and #5 Olivet Nazarene, proved tough early-season competition. Both were too much for the Foresters, who suffered back-to-back losses to both.
“Playing the kind of non-conference schedule we have this season doesn’t always translate into a stellar record,” Platt said, “but it prepares you for the Crossroads League.”
The Foresters rebounded quickly, capturing the championship trophy at the Ness Bros. Hall of Fame Tournament Nov. 13-14. The hosting Foresters first romped Moody Bible Institute, 82-38, on their home floor before sealing the deal with a fifteen-point victory over Bryan College. In the championship game, Hinen guided the Foresters with a double-double of 23 points and 10 dimes.
Platt said his team’s success in an always-competitive conference will ultimately boil down to the Foresters’ ability to play as a unit and to remain injury free throughout the duration of the season. Crossroads League play begins Nov. 24.