Team preview: Wisconsin-Green Bay

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(Information in this team report is as of October 1.)

The best thing about freshmen is they become sophomores. That adage rings true for Wisconsin-Green Bay this winter.

The Phoenix started three freshmen last winter and a fourth was a key contributor off the bench. Despite having to replace four starters from 2004-05, Green Bay survived its youth movement and finished 8-8 in the Horizon League, only a two-game drop from 10-6 the year before with a veteran lineup.

That says two things: One, coach Tod Kowalczyk did a nice coaching job in his fourth season at UWGB. Two, the freshmen were pretty darn talented.

It's a different story this year. No longer one of the youngest teams in the nation, Green Bay has everybody back plus a couple of nice additions in the backcourt. Bottom line, the Phoenix is poised to make a run at the regular-season title.

"They don't look like freshmen any more," Kowalczyk said. "Last year we were young and we looked young. Seven of the 12 guys on scholarship had never shaved. Now, some of them are shaving so that's different."

Kowalczyk got a sneak preview how different in August, taking his team to Spain, where it went 3-1 in a tour of exhibition games. Three different players led
the team in scoring in the five games, but scoring was an area of concern to Kowalczyk as the team flew back across the Atlantic.

"The trip gives you somewhat of an indication what your strengths and weaknesses are," Kowalczyk said. "We've got a long way to go offensively. That's the biggest thing. We need to do a better job with several things offensively."

Green Bay averaged 66.7 points a game last year, sixth best in the league. The Phoenix was among the league's best three-point-shooting clubs (.378), but overall, ranked only eighth in field-goal percentage (.434).

"We experimented with a lot of things on the trip," Kowalczyk said. "Some I liked, some I didn't. But we've got a long way to go with our ability to score. We can make shots. We've got to do a better job of finding each other and sharing the basketball.

"Defensively, we can be really good. I like how we guard. We can be versatile and do some different things and our post play is very solid."