Just three weeks after Western Michigan took to the floor for their first official 2012-2013 practice at neighboring Kalamazoo College's Anderson Athletic Center, the Broncos will welcome the Hornets back to University Arena for their first exhibition game of the season on Thursday.
The two main campuses are separated by a mere quarter-mile stretch of road that passes by the Western Michigan University police department and the University Roadhouse. Western Michigan and Kalamazoo College have conveniently squared off in exhibition match-ups six of the last seven seasons with the Broncos winning by an average of 34 points across that span.
The Broncos defeated the Hornets 92-57 last year, in a game that featured current Bronco senior Nate Hutcheson stuffing the stat sheet with 14 points on 6-7 shooting, seven rebounds, four assists, and one block in 20 minutes of action. Shayne Whittington and Austin Richie also each contributed eight in a game that saw thirteen different Broncos score points.
Kalamazoo College begins a new era of men's basketball under current head coach Eric Dougal who spent the previous six seasons as an assistant coach at UW-Platteville (2011-2012) and Manchester College (2006-2011). The Hornets were previously coached by Rob Passage (2002-2011), who resigned in June to become the Athletic Facilities and Operations Manager at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon.
The Hornets are coming off a frustrating 8-17 overall record last season, of which they went 3-11 in conference play. They lose leading scorer and defender Joe Prepolec to graduation, who averaged a team-leading 15.6 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game. However, Kalamazoo College returns second and third leading scorers Mark Ghafari (12.9 ppg) and Eric Fishman (12.2 ppg), respectively.
Ghafari, in particular, will especially test the Broncos defensively from behind the arc and with the ball in his hands, as he's been known to show some craftiness with the ball and penetrate to the basket. Ghafari ranked sixth overall in the MIAA last year in three-point field goal percentage (.405) and third in three-point field goals made.
The Hornets benefited this offseason from playing against Michigan State Spartan guards Keith Appling, Travis Trice, and Gary Harris in the Moneyball Summer Pro-Am in Lansing back in August. "Team Orange" wasn't able to notch a victory in the tournament, however they gained valuable experience playing against some of the best guards in the nation, and improving upon team chemistry with members of the incoming 2012 recruiting class.
Ghafari will likely be accompanied on the floor by senior point guard Eric Fishman and sharp-shooting junior Grant Carey, complemented by returning players Carter Goetz, Adam Peters, and Keaton Adams.
Look for the Bronco coaching staff to mix and match lineups throughout the game as they continue to evaluate players and tinker with different combinations on the floor. Several freshmen in particular will likely get a heavy dose of minutes, with the exception of probably Taylor Perry and Charles Harris. Perry (ankle) and Harris (knee) are both questionable entering Thursday night's exhibition matchup. Junior point guard David Brown (knee) will not play.
Tip-off is slated for 7:00 p.m. at University Arena.