Basketball Home Opener Takes Coach Back to His Own First Collegiate Venue
While construction continues at the Mulva Family Fitness & Sports Center, home for the 2016-17 St. Norbert men’s basketball team will be two courts at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. The Green Knights will play eight of their regular season home contests at the Kress Event Center and two games in the Phoenix Sports Center.
For Coach Gary Grzesk, now in his 11th year at St. Norbert, the season will mark a homecoming of sorts. He helped the Green Bay Phoenix to three NCAA Tournament appearances during his collegiate career – a career that included a first-round upset of Jason Kidd and the California Golden Bears in 1994.
St. Norbert has held two practices at the Kress Event Center to acclimate to the new surroundings, in preparation for the home opener, Dec. 7 versus Lawrence University.
“The shooting environment (Kress) is different,” says Grzesk. “It is a bigger background. We have always played pretty well at Schuldes, so going to a different gym is a challenge, but it’s a tremendous floor. Even though it seats a lot of people, it’s very intimate. It’s a great environment.”
The Phoenix Sports Center served as the practice facility for the Green Bay men when Grzesk played.
“People don’t realize that part of the old sports center is still connected to the Kress,” he says. “That floor is one of the harder floors I’ve been on. The year before I got there, they had a Tartan floor. I believe they laid the wood right on top of the Tartan. It looks great, but there’s not a lot of padding or cushion.
“I was there for five years,” he continues. “I redshirted my first year. I spent a lot of time on campus and in the sports center. It will bring back a lot of great memories from my playing days.”
The Green Knights are adjusting to a different practice facility and schedule, too, this year, while the former Schuldes Sports Center undergoes a major transformation. The team practices evenings during the week at The Driveway, a basketball training center in Hobart.
St. Norbert, which won a school-record 25 games last season, returns all five starters from last year’s squad that advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Division 3 Tournament. Point guard D.J. DeValk ’18 (16.3 ppg) earned first-team all-Midwest Conference honors last season. Versatile guard Terrence Garner ’17 averaged 10.2 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4 assists per contest and was named second-team all-conference. The veteran starting lineup also features guard Ben Bobinski ’17 (11.9 ppg), forward Mitchell Reinthaler ’18 (10.3 ppg) and center Tim Marshall ’17 (.709 field goal %).
St. Norbert entered the season with a 64-game winning streak against Midwest Conference opponents. The Green Knights are seeking a fifth straight conference championship and its seventh Midwest crown in eight years. Success is not taken for granted, says Grzesk, who will top the 200-win mark at St. Norbert this season.
“Every season is different,” he says. “That’s what we’ve tried to impress on these guys. Just because they’ve accomplished some things in the past, doesn’t mean that it’s going to be that way this year. Each season, each game is different. Last year, things really broke our way. We won seven games by three points or less. If we would have lost any of those seven games, we are probably not hosting in the NCAA tournament in the first and second rounds.”
Injuries have tested the depth of the squad early in the season, but that’s part of basketball, says Grzesk.
“The games are going to go on and the minutes have to be filled, so somebody will step into those roles,” he says. “The experience and leadership of our veterans are strengths. They are kind of a quiet group by nature, but they have a lot of toughness to them collectively.”
Dec. 6, 2016