Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Midconfans News 8/30/2006

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Valpo’s women’s team steps up the competition this year
--The Post-Tribune

Aug. 30, 2006

By Steve T. Gorches / Post-Tribune staff writer

The Valparaiso men won’t have exclusive rights to tough basketball schedules on the VU campus this winter.

The Crusader women’s non-conference schedule will be difficult again with six games against state and area schools that have provided some history in recent years.

Notre Dame coming to the Athletics-Recreation Center will be the biggest home contest, as well as Bradley coming to Valpo after a 79-71 double-overtime victory over VU last year in Peoria, Ill.

“We’re playing some of the best teams,” VU coach Keith Freeman said. “It’s a very challenging non-conference schedule with some great rivalry games.”

He includes Northwestern, Ball State, Indiana State, Loyola (Ill.) and a return to Bloomington to face Indiana as rivalry games.

VU played Indiana on a semi-regular basis up until 1999. With the NCAA changing the rule on how many games schools can play (now 29 with an exempt tournament), putting the Hoosiers back on the schedule was an easy choice.

Ball State and Indiana State both will be part of classic events in back-to-back weeks. The Crusaders will face the Sycamores on Dec. 2 at the Hoosier State Classic in Indianapolis, and the Cardinals on Dec. 10 at Hoopla: A Celebration of Women’s Basketball at IPFW in Fort Wayne. Last year VU faced Purdue in the same classic.

The pre-Mid-Con schedule will provide several different styles of play as a great precursor to the Mid-Con season.

“We have a good assortment with different types of play,” Freeman said. “Primary zone, pressing, man-to-man, halfcourt, athletic teams and some that just want to run and score 80-90 points per game. It’s a wide variety of teams and hopefully that gets us ready for Mid-Con.”

Crusaders add Hoosier flavor to schedule--The NWI Times

Men’s Basketball Set for Games in

A Visit from Notre Dame, Trips to Northwestern and Indiana Highlight 2006-2007 Valpo Women’s Hoops

Friday, August 25, 2006

Midconfans News 8/25/2006

STEVE T. GORCHES COLUMN: Kirby’s timing not great but his opportunity to advance is
--The Post-Tribune

Aug. 25, 2006

You’d be hard-pressed to find a high school head coach in any sport in Northwest Indiana with more integrity than former Valparaiso High School girls basketball coach Greg Kirby.

Even as he was fielding quotes about changing jobs last Thursday — Kirby stepped away from one of the most prestigious coaching jobs in the state to be an assistant at Valparaiso University — he was apologetic about the news being announced on the first day of the prep football season.

Not exactly great timing.

He also sent a verbal apology toward Valpo High for not giving them enough notice, in his humble opinion, before girls basketball season with practice starting in less than two months.

The athletic director who hired him didn’t feel the apology was necessary.

“When you have a quality person like Greg, you’re aware he has some quality opportunities out there,” said Valparaiso A.D. Sam Rasmussen, who has been in charge of Valparaiso athletics since before Kirby was hired in 1990.

“We feel some urgency (to fill the position), but in life you can’t always plan things out. I know he didn’t want it to come this late. But sometimes you have to seize the moment and I encouraged him to do that.”

That moment was changing his daily trip from the west side of the city to the southeast side as a member of Keith Freeman’s staff.

But why would he put aside years of success with the Vikings — 11 sectional titles, eight regionals and four appearances in the IHSAA state finals — to be the second banana in a mid-major college program?

“Being an assistant isn’t that much of an issue to me,” Kirby said. “I want to do my best to help a team play the game as well as they can play it.”

It helped that Freeman will be his immediate boss.

“We’ve had a good relationship for 12 or 13 years,” he said. “I wouldn’t choose to be an assistant under just anybody.”

There are plenty of reasons that Kirby should have stayed at Valpo High. There are plenty of better reasons for Kirby to move to VU.

There’s the economic reasons — not just the salary, though it’s probably substantial. How about his daughter Elise, who attends Valpo High. As a staff member at VU, Kirby would pay substantially less for her tuition, maybe nothing, if he’s still there when her college decision arrives.

Any parent would have that little perk on their mind while making a huge employment decision like Kirby’s.

The 59-year-old will go down as one of the most successful coaches in Northwest Indiana history, boys and girls because he had a pretty good record while coaching the Portage boys.

One or two hall-of-fame inductions have to be in his future with only Crown Point’s Tom May and West Side’s Rod Fisher alongside Kirby in the girls 400-victory club in the region.

So what took so long for a college to request his valuable services? Rasmussen wonders why also.

“He gave great things to our school and community,” he said. “To be honest, I’m surprised more people wouldn’t want his qualities as a coach.”

Contact Steve T. Gorches at 648-3141 or

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Midconfans News 8/24/2006

MARK LAZERUS COMMENTARY: Early exit the best thing for Miles and VU--The Post-Tribune

Aug. 24, 2006

Maybe Jimmie Miles really did just want out. Maybe Homer Drew really did have no intention of ever reinstating him.

Or maybe the split really was amicable, and both sides genuinely thought a transfer was in Miles’ best interest.

Regardless of the behind-the-scenes reasoning, one thing is clear: Valparaiso University has lost its projected starting point guard, and one of its few experienced players, mere months before the start of the season.

Here’s another thing that’s clear: the Crusaders will be far better off for it.

The Miles situation was going to be an albatross around the Crusaders’ necks throughout the season. After his arrest in mid-July for his role as a delivery man in a stolen cell phone scam, Drew promptly suspended Miles from the team.

Drew stood by his man and said all the right things about how Miles cooperated with police and owned up to his actions. But there was no way this was going to end well.

If Drew makes the suspension permanent and kicks Miles off the team, he looks cold and callous, particularly in the wake of his post-arrest comments.

That hurts recruiting, as no kid wants to think he might ever be hung out to dry by his coach.

If Drew reinstates Miles, he runs the risk of setting a dangerous precedent. Where do you draw the line? What crimes are forgivable, and what crimes are too egregious?

That hurts recruiting, too, as no parents want to send their kid to a troubled program.

If Drew keeps Miles suspended, he’s perpetually bombarded with questions about his status, and the season’s focus becomes this minor stain on the program rather than all the good things going on, including a talented freshman class and the upcoming move to the Horizon League.

That hurts recruiting the most, as the conference change could be Valparaiso’s best recruiting tool since Bryce Drew’s famed shot in the NCAA Tournament.

Miles’ apparently amicable departure — particularly before the season really gets going — is the absolute best resolution to an unfortunate situation at Valparaiso.

There’ll be no distractions and little impact on the program’s prestige, as Miles and his minor offense should be distant memories by the time November rolls around. And Drew avoids having to decide Miles’ fate, instead magnanimously helping the player find a new school and a fresh start.

On the court, it’s not quite so rosy. Without the talented-but-underachieving Miles, the Crusaders have only 11 players — three of them true freshmen. Inexperience was already a concern heading into the season, as all five starters from last season graduated. Now it’s even worse.

But in the long run, Miles’ absence could be a blessing in disguise. Frankly, what matters most this season isn’t this season — it’s preparing for next season and the jump to the much tougher and higher-profile Horizon League. With Miles out of the picture, future standouts such as sophomore Brandon McPherson and freshmen Paul Guede and Samuel Haanpaa will be that much more seasoned when the Crusaders make the big leap.

The best-case scenario, of course, would have been if Miles had never gotten caught up in this mini-crime syndicate. But his imminent — and amicable — departure is the next best thing.

Contact Mark Lazerus at 648-3140 or

Change is good--The NWI Times

Ayuba Progressing Nicely From ACL Surgery--UMKC Kangaroos

UMKC Announces 2006-07 Women's Basketball Schedule--UMKC Kangaroos

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Midconfans News 8/22/2006

Avery to play for IUPUI--The Indy Star

MEN’S BASKETBALL: Likely starting guard was arrested earlier for his part in a cell-phone scam--The Post-Tribune

Aug. 22, 2006

By Mark Lazerus / Post-Tribune deputy sports editor

Valparaiso University on Monday granted Jimmie Miles a release from his basketball scholarship so that the suspended guard can seek a transfer to another school.

Miles, a senior who was penciled in as the starting point guard for the Crusaders this season, was arrested last month for playing what police described as a minor role as a delivery person in a cell phone scam. Head coach Homer Drew indefinitely suspended Miles from the team, and shortly after the arrest the two met to discuss Miles’ future. Both sides agreed that a transfer and a fresh start were in Miles’ best interests. Drew said he never decided whether Miles’ suspension would become permanent, because it became immediately apparent that he was going to seek a transfer.

“I met with Jimmie and his family and we went through everything and felt this was the best direction to go in,” Drew said. “Now he can look for a school to finish his degree. It’s imperative to help him find a place to get his degree. He’s only got two semesters to go.”

Drew said he will assist Miles in his search for a new school. If Miles transfers to a Division II or III school, he can play right away. If he goes to another Division I school, he wouldn’t be eligible until the 2007-08 season.

The 6-2 Miles played in 19 games last season, starting 11. He averaged only 4.9 points per game, but was expected to play a major role on a young team as a senior. Now forward Moussa Mbaye is the lone senior on the team.

“(Miles) is an awful, awful good player,” Drew said. “He was one of our best.”

Drew said it’s too early to tell who'll step into Miles’ role, but incoming freshmen Paul Guede and Samuel Haanpaa appear to be logical candidates.

“The young people will get an opportunity to play, that’s for sure,” Drew said. “We’ve got only one senior now, with eight freshmen and sophomores. We will be young, but we like what we have. We’re going to be a very fun team to watch.”

Miles’ release means the Crusaders have one more scholarship, but with school starting, it’s unlikely that slot will be filled this season.

“We don’t have anyone coming in,” Drew said. “We won’t fill it this year unless something miraculous happens in the next day or two.”

Contact Mark Lazerus at 648-3140 or

MIKE HUTTON COLUMN: Projected top class instead bottomed out for Crusaders

Aug. 22, 2006

Unless Moussa Mbaye turns into Kareem Abdul-Jabbar next year, which is about as likely as me being hired by the New York Times, one fact is certain about Valparaiso University’s 2003 recruiting class.

It can officially be classified as a near-total failure.

Throw those copies of Hoop Scoop into the trash if you bleed VU brown and gold. Ask for your money back if you actually paid the $460 yearly fee.

That publication ranked VU’s class that year as the 19th best in the nation. Better than UCLA, Florida, and Missouri. It was called one of the best mid-major classes every assembled.

That publication was referenced frequently and exhaustively in descriptions of the wonder class.

Boy, were they ever wrong. Dewey defeats Truman, the infamous Chicago Tribune headline, was closer to the truth.

With the news that Jimmie Miles has decided to transfer to another school after getting arrested earlier this summer in a cell phone scam, Mbaye is the last player standing in the Athletics-Recreation Center from that heralded four-person class.

Mbaye, a 6-9 forward/center, has never averaged more than three points per game in what has mostly been a reserve roll for him.

And the other two players? One — Kenny Harris — isn’t playing basketball anymore and the other, Oumar Sylla, transferred to Richmond after his freshman year.

Taken individually, their stories are, in some ways, sad.

Harris, a 6-9 center, collapsed during a work-out in the spring of 2005 and his heart stopped. He was in a coma for weeks before he woke up. He is better now but he won’t ever play competitive basketball again. Harris battled weight and back problems for most of his two-year career and it appeared that he was rounding into the best shape of his life when he went down.

Miles, a lightning-quick point guard with a good shot, struggled with injuries and illness for three seasons. He had flashes where he looked brilliant, scoring 22 points against Charlotte in 2004.

Mostly, he’ll be remembered for a mysterious stomach ailment that kept him out of numerous games and his arrest last month for being the delivery man in a scam to sell illegally obtained cell phones.

Sylla, who in one season had distinguished himself as a defensive stopper for the team, did have a serviceable season for the Spiders.

He started every game, averaging six points and 33 minutes per contest. He was second on the team in steals. But the minute he knew he was good, he left, perhaps because he was going to have to play behind Dan Oppland for three years.

Even had they stayed together healthy and whole, it’s ludicrous to believe that they were really a top 20 class.

The premature hype lavished on these players did the program a disservice.

Everybody wanted to buy into the dream but the price turned out to be some impossible expectations for VU and its coaching staff.

This ought to be a lesson for college coaches.

Treat them like high school seniors who aren’t very good until proved otherwise. And don’t ever cite Hoop Scoop when sending out press releases detailing your latest recruits.

Contact Mike Hutton at 648-3139 or at

Thomas Resigns as UMKC Athletics

Women’s Basketball Announce 2006-07 Schedule--GoCentenary.Com


Whitney Law Named Women's Basketball Graduate Assistant--UMKC Kangaroos

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Midconfans News 8/19/2006

GIRLS BASKETBALL: Kirby going from coaching Vikings to Crusaders--The Post-Tribune

Aug. 19, 2006

By Steve T. Gorches / Post-Tribune staff writer

Assistant-coach hires in college sports are usually pretty underwhelming.

Once in a while one will jump out, but for the most part it’s just business as usual.

Friday’s announcement from Valparaiso University women’s basketball coach Keith Freeman was one of the unique times.

Longtime Valparaiso High School girls coach Greg Kirby will put the teaching and coaching grind of high school behind him and head across town to be an assistant under Freeman.

Kirby has been one of the top high school coaches in the state, let alone Northwest Indiana, with 437 career victories combined as a boys and girls coach.

He coached the Portage boys squad for nine years (1978-87) before arriving at Valparaiso in 1990.

In addition to the multitude of victories, Kirby led the Vikings to the top of the Duneland Conference 12 times, as well as 11 sectional titles, eight regional championships, four semistate titles and runner-up in the state twice in 1996 and 2000.

The 1996 effort earned him Indiana coach of the year honors from the Indiana Coaches of Girls Sports Association and the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association.

“I’m looking for a new challenge at this point in my life,” the 59-year-old Kirby said. “I didn’t really have a desire to be a college coach. I like coaching at the high school level. The opportunity presented itself and thought it would be interesting to try coaching at the college level.”

Freeman admitted he brought up the question of becoming an assistant to Kirby, someone he considers more than a close acquaintance.

“Greg is a close friend and someone I balanced a lot of ideas off of the last 13 years,” Freeman said. “He’ll watch our team play and I’ll ask his opinion. I think he’s very knowledgeable. What he and his staff have accomplished at Valparaiso is amazing. I have a great deal of trust in him.”

It’s not too far of a stretch to say most of the area’s high school coaches will be shocked to hear news of Kirby’s departure. One of his longtime friendly rivals was taken aback by the news.

“I’m surprised that in talking with him, he still had the passion and still was doing a terrific job,” Crown Point girls coach Tom May said. “He had one of the best young talented freshmen classes he’s had in year. I’m happy for him. If he’s happy with the decision and his family is happy, I’m 100 percent behind him.”

Kirby said a key selling point for the move was that it was just from one side of the city to the other.

“That’s what made it a good fit. The planets were aligned right,” Kirby said.

Besides the coaching relationship, Kirby and Freeman also have co-directed a team camp at VU the last four years.

The “acquisition” will enhance the Crusaders’ ability to recruit local and state talent to the women’s program.

One of those local players is someone Kirby has faced from the other side the last four years. Kelly Peller played against Kirby at Chesterton before signing with the Crusaders in the spring.

And she was a thorn the Vikings’ side individually.

“I’ll enjoy that,” Kirby said about coaching Peller. “We really didn’t have much success stopping her.”

As for the job he left behind, Kirby said he will have no input in his replacement and he regrets the timing of his decision with fall practice right around the corner.

Contact Steve T. Gorches at 648-3141 or

VHS's Kirby headed to VU--The NWI Times

Former Western Illinois women’s basketball standout Zane Teilane to play in first-ever WNBA Playoffs with Washington Mystics--Western Illinois Athletics

Friday, August 18, 2006

Midconfans News 8/18/2006

MEN’S BASKETBALL: Former VU star headed to Europe--The Post-Tribune

Aug. 18, 2006

By Mark Lazerus / Post-Tribune deputy sports editor

When agent Steve Moeller received a phone call from Boot Tony, the head coach of the Netherlands’ Hanzevast Capitals, asking him about Dan Oppland’s toughness, Moeller could only laugh.

“He said, 'I’m a tough coach. A real tough coach. Is he going to be OK with that?’ ” Moeller recalled. “I told him, 'Dan loves guys like you. I know what kind of a kid he is. He’s a winner. And if you told him to go stand out in the rain and not move until you got back, if you came back tomorrow he’d still be there. That’s just the kind of kid he is.’ ”

That’s all the coach needed to hear.

Oppland, a 6-foot-8 forward who enjoyed one of the most prolific careers in Valparaiso University history, signed a one-year contract to play professionally for the Hanzevast Capitals in Groningen this season. He’ll play in the top league in the Netherlands, and if his team is successful enough, also will play in the elite European League.

“It’s a wonderful spot for him to start out,” Valparaiso coach Homer Drew said. “There are several other Americans on the team, so it’ll be a great adjustment time for him.”

Moeller declined to offer specifics, but said Oppland received a “very good deal.” If Oppland plays well and proves himself capable, he can perhaps move up in the European ranks to a team in Spain, Italy, Greece or France, leagues which typically offer much higher salaries.

Oppland, a three-year All-Mid-Continent Conference selection, averaged 19.8 points and 8.0 rebounds as a senior at Valparaiso.

“European teams expect the Americans to be the leaders on and off the court,” Moeller said. “They expect them to put up the numbers. So if Dan does that, then next year he’s looking at a lot more money.”

Oppland was hoping to latch on to an NBA summer league, but two leads fell through.

“Two NBA teams flat-out lied to me,” Moeller said.

The process of finding a team was a little tougher for Oppland, who couldn’t take advantage of a terrific opportunity when he participated in the prestigious Portsmouth (Va.) Invitational Tournament in April. Oppland found himself on a team loaded with top-tier guards and rarely saw the ball. That prevented him from getting the necessary exposure to get an invitation to the NBA’s pre-draft camp in Orlando, Fla.

But Moeller said he received a few offers from European teams, and settled on the Capitals, which offered the best situation.

Drew has seen the level of play in the Netherlands on his many overseas recruiting trips, and said the level of play is “excellent.”

Contact Mark Lazerus at 648-3140 or

Oppland going Dutch--The NWI Times

ORU women release 2006-07 schedule--The Tulsa World

Former Crusader Dan Oppland Signs Professional

Valpo Women’s Basketball Adds Greg Kirby to Coaching

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Midconfans News 8/17/2006

OU schedule has look of a long, strange trip--The Oakland Press

Known to put together demanding schedules in the past, Oakland University men’s basketball coach Greg Kampe admitted the one he put together for next season “scares me a little bit.”
The Golden Grizzlies released their 2006-07 schedule on Wednesday, and it appears as if Kampe has outdone himself in terms of scheduling tough competition.
OU will play nine teams that played in a postseason tournament last year, seven of which were in the NCAA tournament.
The Golden Grizzlies will play games at Pittsburgh, at Cincinnati, at Arkansas, at UCLA, at Marquette and at Michigan State (Nov. 25). OU will also play at Eastern Michigan on Dec. 5.
“It’s a great schedule for our student-athletes,” Kampe said. “They are going to have an opportunity to play in some of the best venues in the country, experience some of the richest traditions and play against some of the top players in the nation.”
OU’s prominent homecourt games will be against Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Dec. 2 and Toledo on Dec. 30.

Oakland Announces 2006-07 Men’s Basketball