Improving culturally, statistically and in the win column, the Linfield men’s basketball program continued its upward trajectory under second-year coach Shanan Rosenberg in 2015-16.
The Wildcats were a much-improved club in a number of statistical categories, most notably free throw percentage (74.4, second in the Northwest Conference), opponent scoring average (68.3 points, third), turnovers allowed (12.3, fourth) and opponents field goal percentage (41.5, fourth). Linfield tied for seventh place in the NWC with a 5-11 record.
With a roster consisting of just one senior, the scrappy Wildcats earned 11 victories, a vast improvement from the prior season’s four-win output. And among its 14 losses, the team’s margin of defeat in NWC games was considerably tighter, 8.0 compared with 14.6 a year ago.
The Linfield offense “was brilliant at times,” said Rosenberg, who saw his team’s scoring average climb from 59.5 to 68.3. “We need to be more consistent in the years ahead and I feel very confident that will happen.”
Culturally, the coaching staff watched the program take giant steps forward “in terms of how we treat and trust each other and the expectations of habit and practice on and off the court. It’s all very positive.”
Kyle Maloof, a junior guard who transferred from Rio Hondo College, provided a big lift on the court. Despite enduring most of the conference schedule with a debilitating back injury, Maloof led Linfield in point production (12.2 per game) and rebounding (6.3 per game).
Third-year center Mason Rodby (8.3 points, 5.8 rebounds) enjoyed his best season, providing an interior presence for an injury riddled front line. Rugged center Austin Murray, recovering from offseason knee surgery, worked his way back to the floor by midseason. However another promising big man, Matt Woods, sat out the entire season with an injury.
Newcomers Austin Daniels, Vince Romeo, Eric Daul and Riley Bruil all played extended minutes in the backcourt. Romeo finished as the Wildcats’ second-leading scorer at 10.8 points per contest. Daul hit 44 percent of his three-point attempts while contributing 37 assists and 18 steals.
“Our freshmen did a great job improving throughout the year and doing a great deal of heavy lifting for our team,” praised Rosenberg. “Jordan Clark and Kevin Hurley provided great leadership and incredible effort throughout the whole season and everyone benefitted from their contributions. I can't say enough about the courage and tenacity of Kevin on the court and his humility and leadership. He will be missed.”
With all but Hurley likely to return to the court in the fall, the table appears set for continued prosperity and increased wins. Rosenberg believes the Wildcats can soon be in the championship conversation.
“We are very close to being a playoff contender and ultimately a title contender. I see us taking another big step next year and being in the hunt. That's always been our goal and our standard. Our third recruiting class will be important in filling some gaps to help us get there, combined with the continued development of our core group.”