The lone senior on the Franklin College men’s basketball team, John Beineke has seen his share of tough times.
The hard-nosed center is anxious to help reverse the Grizzlies’ fortunes after experiencing three consecutive losing seasons.
“It’s been tough, obviously. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t disappointing at times, but I’m optimistic about this year and the future going forward,” said the 6-foot-7 Beineke, who averaged 12 points and 6.4 rebounds last season.
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“There are a lot of guys here who are hungry to see how good they can be. They seem to have that fire. It will be interesting.”
Beineke is the lone starter back from last season’s 6-19 team. His minutes per game (26.8) nearly double those logged by the Grizzlies’ second-most experienced player, 6-5 sophomore guard Kale Morris.
Despite that dearth of experience, there is no shortage of optimism.
Now starting his 35th season, coach Kerry Prather knows this group must overachieve to prove the doubters wrong (Franklin College was picked to finish eighth of 10 teams in the annual Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference preseason poll).
He started by altering his program’s recruiting philosophy.
“This downturn we’ve had, in my position you have to stand back and be analytical about the parts you might be missing,” said Prather, whose career record is 491-415. “We had a system down and didn’t have a real wide (recruiting) net.
“Eventually, your system has to be retooled. That does involve a wider net and more AAU contact with kids earlier in their (high school) careers.”
The infusion of new talent includes transfers Cam King (Southern Indiana), a 6-1 sophomore guard, and Atticus Felling (Lincoln Trail Community College), a 6-2 junior guard. Prather also anticipates freshmen Sam Gutierrez, Danny Goggans, Ismail Jones, Braxton Robertson and Gavin Collier to contribute early.
Those players, combined with holdovers Beineke, Morris, 6-5 junior Jordan Anderson and sophomore forward Gunnar Dittrich, give the Grizzlies numerous options in terms of lineups.
Morris, whose initial college season was limited to 11 games and two starts due to an ankle injury, is, in Prather’s words, “as good of a pure shooter as we’ve had here in a long time.” This could prove huge for a program that shot only .357 from behind the 3-point arc last season.
However, with this Grizzlies squad, it all starts down low.
Beineke already has appeared in 75 games in his Franklin College career and been part of Prather’s starting lineup on 48 occasions. Beineke is 251 points shy of 1,000 for his career and is a trusted centerpiece for a program that is an uncharacteristic 25-76 since the start of the 2013-14 season.
“John is just a grind-it-out-in-the-paint kind of guy,” Prather said. “He’s the example of a guy who has invested himself and is pretty doggone good right now.”
The coach is hoping that in time, the Grizzlies are, too.
Nov. 15;at DePauw;7:30 p.m.
Nov. 18;at Cornell College; 4 p.m.
Nov. 21;Boyce;8 p.m.
Nov. 25;Wheaton;3 p.m.
Nov. 28;Centre;7:30 p.m.
Dec. 2;Hanover;3 p.m.*
Dec. 6;at Anderson;7:30 p.m.
Dec. 9;at Defiance;4 p.m.
Dec. 16;Bluffton;4 p.m.
Dec. 19;at Thomas More;7 p.m.
Dec. 30;at Wabash; 3 p.m.
Jan. 3;Manchester;7:30 p.m.
Jan. 6;at Mount St. Joseph’s; 3 p.m.
Jan. 10;at Rose-Hulman;7:30 p.m.
Jan. 13;Earlham; 2 p.m.
Jan. 17;Transylvania;7:30 p.m.
Jan. 20;at Hanover; 2 p.m.
Jan. 24;Anderson;7:30 p.m.
Jan. 27;Defiance; 4 p.m.
Jan. 31;at Manchester;7:30 p.m.
Feb. 3;at Earlham;2 p.m.
Feb. 7;Rose-Hulman;7:30 p.m.
Feb. 10;Mount St. Joseph’s;3 p.m.
Feb. 14;at Transylvania;7:30 p.m.
Feb. 17;at Bluffton;4 p.m.
* – at Bankers Life Fieldhouse
Head coach: Kerry Prather
Last season: 6-19
Key returnees: Jordan Anderson, So., G; John Beineke, Sr., F/C; Jordan Davis, Jr., G; Gunnar Dittrich, So., F; Kyle Meyer, So., F; Kale Morris, So., G; James Polston, Jr., F.
Fresh faces: Gavin Collier, Fr., G; Atticus Felling, Jr., G; Danny Goggans, Fr., F; Sam Gutierrez, Fr., G; Ismail Jones, Fr., G; Cam King, So., G; Braxton Robertson; Fr., F.
Outlook: Beineke’s experience along the interior makes the senior an immediate double-team candidate for opposing teams until the Grizzlies prove proficient from the perimeter. Morris, who delivered 15 3-pointers in his 11 games last season, will be counted on here, as will Anderson. Transfers King and Felling must also help, along with a host of incoming freshmen.
Coachspeak: “We’ve always had great kids. We were missing some depth and missing some skills. The younger kids have come in ready to compete with the same great attitudes. It’s that passion of, ‘I want to see how good I can be,’ and we have a lot of that right now.” — Prather