MARIETTA-With a Canadian exhibition trip under its belts, the Marietta College men's basketball team officially begins the season tonight as the Pioneers play host for the annual Marietta Shrine Tournament at Ban Johnson Arena.
Marietta has won the tournament the past two seasons and is aiming to keep the streak going.
"It's crucial," said MC head coach Jon VanderWal when asked about the importance of performing well in the tournament.
"It's really important. We've got some question marks and some holes we've got to fill. It would be great to do well this weekend and get some confidence."
This season, Marietta faces the task of replacing Trevor Halter, Kevin Knab, Joe Puch and Conner Kilpatrick who were all lost to graduation.
Key returners looking to step into bigger roles this year are Tyler Hammond, J.J. Martin, Jason Humphrey, Brennan McKean, Scott Kimmey, Jacob Owens and Tyler Worstell.
Defiance vs. Ohio
Wesleyan, 6 p.m.
Marietta College vs. Frostburg State, 8 p.m.
The Pioneers will have to get by some tough opponents in order to be crowned Marietta Shrine Tournament champs again in 2012.
"The three teams coming this year are very good," VanderWal said. "Frostburg is a very athletic team. Ohio Wesleyan is preseason No. 21 in the polls. The competition is as good as it's ever been in this tournament. We're going to have to play well."
The Pioneers are no slouches themselves. Martin, a senior, averaged 10.8 points a game last season from the post position. Hammond, a junior, started as a freshman and sophomore at point guard and is very experienced. Seniors Humphrey and Owens are both three-year lettermen as well.
The Pioneers have put in a lot of effort in practice, and VanderWal is hoping that will translate into success in game situations.
"We've got to execute our stuff," the coach said. "The guys have been working hard and they're ready to go. I want to see great effort and great execution. Those are the two main things."
VanderWal will likely go with a lineup of Hammond at point guard, McKean and Kimmey at the wings, and Martin and Humphrey in the post.
The tournament kicks off with Defiance against Ohio Wesleyan at 6 p.m. today, followed by Marietta opening up against Frostburg State at 8 p.m.
The losers of each game will play a consolation game at 5 p.m. Saturday while the winners will play in the championship game at 7 p.m. Saturday.
"We're excited to get started," VanderWal said. "We've been practicing since September. We're ready for the lights to come on. We hope the community comes out and packs Ban Johnson."
The Mount St. Joseph Tip-Off Classic tips off today in Cincinnati with the Marietta College women's basketball team looking to make some noise.
The Pioneers take on Albion College at 5 p.m. then play Mount St. Joseph at 4 p.m. Saturday.
Led by first-year head coach Stacia Shrider, Marietta is looking to improve on a 10-16 (5-13 OAC) record from last year, and it all starts this weekend. "I'd like to see a very strong competitive nature from our team," Shrider said. "Another big thing I want to see is defensive intensity. Offensively, we want to push the ball up the court, and we need to defend and rebound."
Players will need to expand their offensive roles this year, as the top scorer from last year in Aleisha Guiler will not be returning. Marietta also loses seniors Rachel Jones, Paige Bucher and Lizz Wilson.
Marietta will look for contributions from Krissy Rowe, Tori Dixon, Paige Lamb, Sierra Sigman, Heather Booth, Lindsay Deemer and Candice Alexander.
Doing well this weekend would be big for the team's confidence as it advances further into its schedule.
Next weekend is the 28th annual Jim Meagle Turkey Shoot, sponsored by BSN Sports, that's Marietta's home opener at Ban Johnson Arena. After that, it's on to OAC action. "We're looking to be very competitive (in the Jim Meagle tournament)," Shrider said. "We would love to pick up some wins there going into OAC play."