BEREA, Ohio -- A familiar face, Tom Heil, takes over the reigns of the Baldwin Wallace University men's basketball program in 2015-16. He is hoping to do the same thing with his Yellow Jackets that he did last year as a first-year coach at Defiance College. Two years ago, Heil was Duane Sheldon's top assistant at BW. Last spring, Sheldon left the coaching profession and Heil returned to BW.
As a first-year head coach last season, Heil led Defiance to a conference title and into the NCAA Division III Tournament. He returns to BW hoping to lead the Yellow Jackets to an Ohio Athletic Conference title and a spot in the NCAA tourney. He has nine lettermen, including seven key contributors and two starters back from last season's 18-9 team. Plus, Heil has one transfer who joined him from Defiance and a strong group of freshmen who will compete for spots in the starting line up.
Heil returns two full-time starters in 6'2" sophomore honorable mention All-OAC guard Cameron Kuhn (Vermilion) and 6'7" sophomore power forward Jake Fetherolf (Norwalk). In addition, 6'3" junior swingman Jaelen Hollinger (Akron/ Archbishop Hoban), 6'0" junior point guard Zack Brandy (Hudson) and 5'10" senior guard Brandon Gleim (Hilliard/ Davidson) have all started at one time or another and return.
Kuhn returns after starting all 27 games and earning OAC Co-Freshman of the Year and honorable mention All-OAC honors. He was second in scoring at 14.0 points-per-game. He also grabbed 3.0 rebounds-per-game, passed for 57 assists, made 24 steals, had 21 three-pointers and led the OAC in free throw shooting at 89.1 percent (106 of 119 attempts). Fetherolf also started all 27 games and averaged 8.3 ppg. and a team-leading 7.1 rpg. He also shot a team-leading 60.9% from the floor (92 of 151 attempts) and 82% from the line and blocked 17 shots.
Hollinger started a number of games as a freshman and returns after scoring 4.1 ppg. and grabbing 3.1 rpg. He can play either inside or on the perimeter. Brandy started four games last season and scored 4.2 ppg. with 26 assists and 12 steals. Gleim, who is one of BW's top defenders, played in 26 games last season and scored 3.9 ppg., canned 19 three-pointers and made 17 steals.
Joining the quintet as returning veterans are seniors Zach Warner (Clyde) and Ryan Walsh (Easton, Pa./Easton Area). Both saw plenty of action last year and played key roles. Both made significant strides a year ago. Warner scored 4.5 ppg., grabbed 1.6 rpg. and was third on the squad with 33 triples. Walsh averaged 2.9 ppg., grabbed 2.6 rpg., clocked 12 shots and shot 68.2% from the floor (30 of 44 attempts).
Add sophomore transfer Mike Kaminski (via Defiance/ 3.9 ppg., 2.2 rpg., 30 three-pointers), senior Cody Shell (nine games/ 0.9 ppg.) and sophomore Jordan Richardson (four games/ 1.5 ppg.), Heil has 10 student-athletes who have varsity experience.
Although the freshmen are an unknown quantity, look for Heil to give a number of them an opportunity to battle for playing time during camp.
The Yellow Jackets open the season on November 15 when they travel to Washington, Pennsylvania to play Washington & Jefferson College at 3 p.m. The first home game is a women's and men's doubleheader versus Case Western Reserve University on Nov. 17. The OAC opener is on December 2 at the University of Mount Union at 7:30 p.m.