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Transy hopes for another special season in 2012-13 | Transylvania University

Transylvania University

Ethan Spurlin is a preseason All-America pick

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The 2011-12 season was a magical one for the Transylvania men’s basketball team: a 10-game winning streak to open the season, a 23-5 overall mark, winning the Heartland Conference by four games with a 16-2 mark, and making the school’s fourth appearance in the NCAA Division III Championships in head coach Brian Lane‘s 11 years on the job.

Along the way, the Pioneers made a preseason trip to Canada, faced the eventual NCAA Division I national champion Kentucky Wildcats in Rupp Arena before 20,000 fans, and participated in the Classic in Las Vegas, Nev.

Despite being upset at home in the finals of the HCAC tournament, the Pioneers were nationally ranked and were an at-large choice to play in the D-III Championships, hosting Carroll (Wis.) at the Beck Center.

At that point, the magic ran short. With severe storms in the area, including powerful tornados, start times for the first-round games were pushed into the late evening and early morning hours. Transy ran into a hot Carroll team and dropped an 84-74 decision.

But with four starters and 10 letter-winners returning, it’s not hard to envision lightning striking again for Lane’s Pioneers this season.

“It was unlike any other year,” said Lane, who enters his 12th season at the Transy helm with a career mark of 191-104, No. 2 on the school’s all-time win list. “I told our guys early on that there wasn’t a game on our schedule where we didn’t think we were the favorite. We felt like we could really have a special year and it certainly turned out to be that.

“With most of those players back, I have the same feeling,” he added. “We lost two great senior leaders and someone will need to fill that void for us to reach our potential.”

Once again, Transy will begin its season with an exhibition contest in Rupp Arena against Kentucky. Then it’s on to Baltimore to open regular season  play in the Hoopsville National Invitational, hosted by Stevenson University.

Clearly, the Pioneers have a solid base to build on this season: among its eight seniors and two juniors are HCAC Player of the Year Ethan Spurlin and three other All-HCAC choices in Brandon RashTate Cox, and Barrett Meyer.

Spurlin, Rash, and Meyer all averaged in double digits last year, with Spurlin leading the way at 16.8 points a game. He was also the team’s leading rebounder with 6.4 per contest, edging out Rash (15.6 points, 4.0 rebounds) in both categories.

Meyer added 11.8 points a game and was the team’s leader from long range, canning 60 of 138 from the three-point line (43.5 percent). Cox scored 9.1 points a game and was second to Rash in assists.

Spurlin and Rash would go on to earn All-Region recognition and Spurlin was a third-team All-American pick by the National Basketball Coaches Association.

“We only had two seniors last year, so we knew our juniors would have to carry us,” said Lane. “Even without a lot of seniors, it was still one of the most experienced teams we’ve had here. Ethan and Brandon both had great years. Ethan thought he should have shared the Player of the Year award with Brandon. That’s kind of the kind of unselfish attitude our team brings to the table.”

There are a number of individual milestones that could easily be reached during the 2012-13 campaign. Three Pioneers (Rash at 979, Meyer at 909, and Spurlin at 760) could surpass 1,000 points for his career. Lane needs just nine wins for 200.

In many ways, the 2012-13 team resembles the Elite Eight squad of 2005-06.

That team had seven seniors and four players who would eventually become 1,000-point scorers. They had won 20 games the prior year and shared the HCAC title, but didn’t get a bid to the NCAA tournament.

Highly motivated to end their careers on a high note, the seniors led the Pioneers to a 27-5 season record, tying the school mark for most wins in a year, then advanced to the NCAA Quarterfinal round. They finished the year ranked seventh in the country, the best performance since joining Division III after the 2001 campaign.

Transy’s other seniors this year include guards Nick FudgeTaylor Botkin, and Trey Beuttel and forward Leavitt Morrison. Cox is the team’s lone junior. The sophomore class consists of Tommy Sirkin and Isaiah Dooley.

A lack of size was one of last year’s shortcomings and Lane tried to address that by bringing in a freshman class that included 6-8 Joe Jennings from Bishop Brossart in Alexandria, 6-6 Parker Stansberry from Dixie Heights in Erlanger, and Chris Taylor, a 6-5 forward from Gulf Breeze, Fla.

Also in the new class are a pair of guards, 6-1 Jacob Clark from North Oldham and 5-11 Lowell Gordon from Anderson County.

“We hope our recruits will help us size-wise,” Lane said. “Once you get into post-season in Division III, a big key to your success is how you match up with the other team. Last year, we ran into a team in Carroll that had a really good post player that we couldn’t guard. I think we fixed that in the off-season.”

Although the Pioneers bring a talented and motivated team to the table in 2012-13, no one expects the rest of the Heartland Conference to hand them the championship. In addition to a challenging conference schedule, the Pioneers will face Catholic University and Randolph-Macon in the Hoopsville Invitational in Baltimore, Wooster and Franklin & Marshall in the Don Lane Holiday Classic, and in-state rivals Centre and Thomas More.

“It shapes up to be an exciting season,” said Lane. “We’ll be the favorite to win the conference. We’ll learn from what happened to us at the end of the season last year and be better prepared to reach our goals.”


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