HIRAM, OHIO — The 2011-12 Hiram College men’s basketball team will feature a roster that has experience and a balance of veterans and youth as the Terriers look to rebuild after the loss of six senior players from a year ago.
Last season, the Terriers finished with a 14-12 overall record and 8-8 in the North Coast Athletic Conference. Hiram also made its eighth appearance in the NCAC Tournament.
“We had an up-and-down season last year,” said sixth-year Head Coach Steve Fleming. “We won a few games that we played really well in and had some difficult losses too. But we continue to make improvements and as long as we continue to do so, I think we could surprise some people this year.”
Hiram returns 12 lettermen and one starter from last year’s squad. Back to lead the team this season will be the senior duo of Andrew Wiegand (Amherst, Ohio/Firelands) and Jamaal Watkins (South Euclid/Brush). Wiegand saw playing time both as a starter and coming off the bench in 2010-11 and averaged 8.0 points per game on 38.0 percent shooting (79-of-208). He was second on the team in three-point shooting with 44 triples (44-of-123). He also averaged 2.3 rebounds per game while tallying 15 assists, nine blocked shots and 15 steals. Watkins primarily came off the bench last season and averaged 6.7 ppg. He was tied for second in blocks with 11 and was amongst the team leaders in rebounding at 4.1 rpg.
Also back this season is sophomore guard Aaron Stefanov (Stow/Stow-Munroe Falls). Stefanov was the 2010-11 NCAC Newcomer of the Year after finishing second on the team in scoring at 9.2 ppg. and led the Terriers in three-pointers made (58), attempts (127) and shooting percentage (45.7%). He was also one of the team’s top free-throw shooters with an 81.5 percent average (22-of-27). In addition, Stefanov also had 26 assists five blocked shots and 21 steals.
Other players in the backcourt to watch this season include juniors Tom Herchek (Randolph/Waterloo), Alan Sheppard (Wadsworth) and Justin Wisniewski (Macedonia/Nordonia). All three saw limited playing time last season in backup roles. Herchek played in 11 games and scored six points on two-of-14 shooting (14.3 percent). Sheppard averaged 2.7 ppg. in 12 games while shooting 13-of-30 from the field (43.3 percent) and Wisniewski also came off the bench in 12 games and scored two points, but grabbed 11 rebounds.
“We will look to have big seasons from each of our guards this season,” said Fleming. “We lost some really talented starters from last season, but we have the players to help fill those voids and with the style of offense we like to run, we are more than capable of putting up some big numbers.”
The forward position will have the most question marks for Hiram this season. Junior Steve Zivoder (Garrettsville/Garfield) returns as the most experienced “big man” playing in 19 games last season, including three starts. He averaged 1.3 ppg. on 31.3 percent shooting (five-of-16). He also averaged 1.6 rpg. in addition to recording two assists, three blocked shots and three steals defensively.
Looking to play a bigger role this season will be junior Justin Lonis (Perrysburg) and sophomore Chris Zurowski (Medina). Last season, Lonis saw playing time in five games and scored two points while pulling down five boards. Zurowski played in eight games while scoring four points on two-of-six shooting (33.3 percent) and recording six rebounds.
“We lost some key players up front from last season,” said Fleming. “Our returning players will have to step up for us this season and with the addition of a few new players, I think that we can have solid contributions throughout the year from our post players.”
Hiram will officially begin the 2011-12 season on Tuesday, Nov. 15 when the Terriers travel to Alliance for a non-conference matchup against the University of Mount Union. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.