MADISON, NJ - It didn't take long for the Drew University men's basketball team to make an impact.
In their second game of this season, the Rangers scored a school-record 120 points in a 120-73 rout of Penn State-Abington last week in the consolation game of the Rose City Classic on the Drew campus.
Drew hopes its experience can help book a return trip to the Landmark Conference championship game for the first time since 2010-11.
The Rangers' (11-14 last season) makeup is simple. Smart and strong ball movement finds the open man, and seventh-year head coach Darryl Keckler's squad won't be afraid to take the shot from anywhere on the court. The key to transferring the blueprint to the actual hardwood is having the team's top returning contributors learn from the valuable experience obtained over the last two years.
"We are driven by our upperclassmen and they bring a lot of experience, especially in guard play," Keckler said. "It's a fun group to coach, they are all good kids and they know what we're looking for in terms of our philosophy. They know to make the extra pass and all we can ask for as coaches is that they care, and they certainly do."
Drew returns seven of its top eight scorers from last season, and four of its top five rebounders. On both ends of the court, the Rangers will look to a team captain in junior Mike Klinger, who led the team in 2013-14 with 19.4 points per game (second in the Landmark Conference) and 3.5 assists per contest.
The numbers are there for Klinger, and the team's rise to the next level can be on the heels of his realizing his potential as one of the league's best players. He now has 818 career points and will enter the new season 182 points away from becoming the 18th member of the 1,000-Point Club for Drew University men's basketball.
"We'll have different point guards, but the majority of it will fall on Mike, who will have the ball in his hands more than anyone else," Keckler said. "He has a chance and the ability to be an All-Conference First Team player and possible Athlete of the Year in the Landmark before his career his over. We ask him to do it all, and he's more than capable of doing it."
Also at the core of returning starters are juniors Jason Huelbig and Kevin-Michael Miller. A high-flying swingman with great athletic ability, Huelbig averaged 12.6 points and 4.6 rebounds last season with 22 blocks and 20 steals. Keckler says his physicality and athleticism will be hard to match up against and will cause matchup problems for the opposition with his ability to play both guard and forward. Miller (5.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg) brings a 6-8 frame to the center position and led the team in blocks with 36 last season.
Senior guard Steve Hydzik returns for his final campaign in Blue and Green after racking up consistent and meaningful minutes over his three seasons. Keckler acknowledged another strength for the Rangers will be physical strength, which Hydzik brings along with the entire senior class, also led by guards Robby Bier and Brian Ford, and forward Zach Nolan. Junior Ozan Yucetepe is another swingman with size and experience returning for Drew in 2014-15.
Junior guard Brian McLaughlin looks to step into a bigger role this season after averaging 6.0 points per outing during his sophomore year. The guard made the most of his opportunity last winter for the Rangers, sinking 15-of-33 attempts from beyond the arc for a .455 percentage.
Another experience-laden guard is a newcomer to Madison in junior Kevin Herring II, a transfer from Case Western Reserve University.