The concrete is poured and the foundation is set. The restoration of the men’s basketball program to regional and national prominence continues to move forward under Shanan Rosenberg, the Linfield Wildcats’ second-year coach and architect.
Like a lot of construction projects, change is not always apparent or obvious in the early stages. Rosenberg’s blueprint for the 2014-15 season served to strengthen the program’s underpinnings, making certain the wiring and plumbing are sound and the ground floor solid before taking the important steps of erecting the walls and roof.
“I believe progress is being made,” said Rosenberg. “The biggest achievement is just getting our first full recruiting class acclimated to college life and the rigors of being a student-athlete. We’re very excited for the future. Recruiting is going well. With the addition of some high- caliber players that we are actively recruiting, the program is primed to turn a huge corner.”
Eighteen players comprised Rosenberg’s large roster, but eight of those Wildcats were playing their first seasons of college basketball. Two others transferred into the program but brought limited experience.
Many of the upgrades Rosenberg installed have little to do with basketball skills. “The areas where we made the most improvement were the development of our younger players and the cultural development of the group, in terms of work ethic, life management, habits and understanding how good you have to be in order to compete at the top of this conference.”
Without question, Linfield took its lumps over the course of a 4-21 season. The Wildcats did take satisfaction from two Northwest Conference wins, which came at the expense of their neighbors from down the street, Willamette and George Fox.
“We were so young and inexperienced with our ball security and game management, it really hampered our ability to turn the corner in a number of games,” said Rosenberg. “Yet we were highly competitive and became more so as the season moved along.”
No player averaged more than nine points a game, the result of Rosenberg cycling a steady stream of the players on and off the court. The benefit to that approach was 12 Wildcats averaged 10 or more minutes per contest, giving nearly every team member a chance to experience their own growing pains while maturing against live competition.
Graduating seniors Ryan Cali and Vinnie Toor, both junior-college transfers, filled roles as short-term subcontractors who laid the groundwork for what will one day be a well-built program with outstanding street appeal.
Lettermen Mason Rodby, Kevin Hurley and DeQuam Walls contributed their individual talents toward the makeover.
The freshmen that made the greatest impact were centers Austin Murray and Matt Woods, forwards Jordan Clark, Connor Sende and Chase Walker, and guard Trevor Howard.
With a metaphorical hardhat on his head and the din of hammers and saws in the background, Rosenberg envisions his building project becoming more aesthetically pleasing for passersby in time for the fall. “Our kids are highly motivated and are working harder than ever. They are eager to get back in the gym. They are hungry to compete for a league championship.”