BEREA, Ohio -- Tom Heil and his 7-3 overall Baldwin Wallace University men's basketball team opens play at the 2015 Defiance College Purple & Gold Bankers Financial Basketball Tournament against North Park, Illinois University on December 29. It is familiar territory for Heil.
Heil, who took over as the Yellow Jacket head coach last spring, was the head coach at Defiance last season and led the Yellowjackets to a 22-7 record, to both the Heartland Conference regular season and conference tournament titles and into the second round of the 2015 NCAA Division III National Tournament that included a win over the defending national champs in the first round.
He is familiar with BW too. Prior to taking over at Defiance, Heil was the assistant to Duane Sheldon '93. So, when Sheldon left BW late last winter, Heil decided to come back to BW. It has been a successful return as his team is 7-3 overall, including a 3-2 mark in the rugged Ohio Athletic Conference. North Park is 6-3 overall.
He also brought a familiar name back to BW too.
Yellow Jacket sophomore forward Mike Kaminski (Medina) is the son of BW Hall of Famers Kenn Kaminski '91 and Kim Staurt-Kaminski '90 who both played basketball for BW and each scored more than 1,000 points and grabbed more than 500 rebounds.
"This is my dream job, so when Duane [Sheldon]left, I knew this is where my wife and I wanted to be," said Heil. "I have the utmost respect for the people at Defiance. They gave me a great opportunity, and I will always be indebted to them for the chance to be a college head coach.
"We also look forward to play in this tournament," continued Heil. "We (BW) open with a very good North Park team with at least two great players. North Park plays in a terrific conference and will present some serious challenges for us on both ends of the floor. The second day won't be any easier as both Albion and Defiance will be tough to beat. Any one of the four teams in the tournament field is more than capable of winning the title, and that's exciting."
Heil also likes what he sees in his BW Yellow Jacket team, including Kaminski.
"We have a group that has been tested a lot of different ways early in the season. We have played back-to-back days, we have played a lot of road games, we have played a double overtime game versus a great Mount Union [University of] team on the road. I am confident this group will continue to improve and this tournament is an ideal opportunity for us to do so," said Heil, who also led the BW men's golf team to an OAC title and an NCAA tourney berth in 2014 and en route to being the OAC Men's Golf Coach of the Year.
"Mike has done a good job so far this season. He has continued to work to develop all areas of his game and he shows up every day ready to compete. Mike consistently plays as hard as anyone we have," said Heil of Kaminski, who is averaging 6.2 points and 3.2 rebounds-per-game and is third on the squad with 15 three-pointers. "He comes from a very supportive basketball family. We are pleased he is at BW and look forward to working with him the next three seasons."
Kaminski is joined in the starting lineup by the OAC's leading scorer in sophomore All-OAC guard Cam Kuhn (Vermilion), who scores 24.7 ppg. and grabs 4.1 rpg., sophomore forward Jake Fetherolf (Norwalk), who scores 12.1 ppg. and leads the OAC with 11.5 rpg.; freshman guard Jay Battle (Gahanna/Lincoln), who scores 8.3 ppg. and tops the team with 35 assists; and junior swingman Jaelen Hollinger (Akron/Hoban), who scores 6.4 ppg. and grabs 4.3 rpg.
Heil plays nine-to-10 guys per game and hopes to get senior point guard Brandon Gleim (Hilliard/Davidson) back after missing five games with an injury. Gleim was scoring 7.0 ppg. at the time of his injury. Look for junior Academic All-OAC point guard Zack Brandy (Hudson), who scores 8.0 ppg. and has 24 assists; freshman guard Michael Peters (Cuyahoga Falls/ CVCA), who scores 7.1 ppg. and grabs 3.6 rpg.; senior Academic All-OAC forward Zach Warner (Clyde), who scores 6.9 ppg. and is second with 21 triples; and senior Academic All-OAC forward Ryan Walsh (Easton, Pa./ Easton Area), who scores 1.9 ppg. and grabs 2.7 rpg., all to see action off the bench.
Following its game versus North Park, BW will play on December 30 in either the consolation game at 5 p.m. or championship game at 7 p.m. against either host Defiance, 5-3 overall with four straight wins, or Albion (Mich.) College, 4-5 overall. BW returns to OAC play on Saturday, January 9, 2016 wen it travels to Columbus to play rival Capital University in the Capital Center at 2 p.m.