2014 NCAA Div. III tournament qualifier
PELLA — Coach Craig Douma gets an early look at his Central College men’s basketball team under game conditions when the Dutch make a rare venture to a Division I venue, heading to Drake University for an exhibition game Sunday in Des Moines.
Game time is 2:05 p.m. at the Knapp Center.
Central is coming off a 10-14 year in Douma’s inaugural season. Just two starters return. Kevin Kaerwer (El Paso, Texas, John L. Chapin HS), a 5-foot-10 senior will slide back to point guard after spending much of last season at the off guard spot, where he averaged 5.5 points and 1.6 assists. And 6-8 power forward Matt Greenfield (senior, Huxley, Ballard HS) is the team’s returning scoring leader. He averaged 14.5 points and a team-high 8.3 rebounds a game.
Getting the first shot at the other spots Sunday afternoon are 6-foot junior Nile Eckermann (Cosgrove, Clear Creek-Amana HS) at off guard, 6-4 senior Yaw Sapon-Amoah (Ghana, Des Moines Christian HS) at small forward and 6-6 senior Spencer Bakerink (Creston) at center.
It’s the first time Central has played an exhibition at Drake since the start of the 2007-08 season. That didn’t turn out well as the Dutch were overwhelmed, 83-29 by a Drake squad that went on to win the Missouri Valley Conference title and advance to the NCAA tournament. New Drake coach Ray Giacoletti won’t have as many experienced players on the roster as that club, but the Bulldogs do have 6-11 senior Seth VanDeest, an honorable mention preseason all-Missouri Valley pick, and a lineup with more physical talent than Central is likely to encounter in the Iowa Conference.
Yet Douma is excited to see how his team fares.
“Obviously we’re a big underdog but it’s a great opportunity to go against a team of that caliber and see where we are,” he said. “It’s helpful because it’s more than a scrimmage—it’s a full dress rehearsal. We get an opportunity to coach, go through all the pre-game rituals and get the team prepared for a game.”
Getting pushed by talented opponents can be revealing, Douma said.
“It will be fun to see how we react to what they do,” he said. “It will be a mental and physical challenge. We’ll see who steps up, who makes plays and see how they handle it.
“We want players who will stay positive, compete every play and have a never-back-down attitude.”
Four seniors are in the projected starting lineup but Douma wasted little time in making recruiting inroads through his aggressive efforts and hopes to see some early dividends from his first freshman class, as well as returning bench and junior varsity players.
“I think we have a great combination of experience and youth,” Douma said. “I hope our seniors can help take our inexperienced players around them and help them become better.”
One of Douma’s prize recruits won’t be wearing a uniform. Joe Steinkamp returned to the Dutch staff as the top assistant coach after a year away. A 2003 Central grad and former Dutch player, Steinkamp spent seven years on the staff and helped guide Central to the 2009-10 league crown.
Central opens the 2013-14 season for real Nov. 15 at Monmouth College (Ill.).