GVSU men's basketball to head downtown for matchup with Lake Superior
In a season that has already seen its wide range of highs and lows, the Grand Valley State men’s basketball team has seemingly found its groove at just the right time.
Whether it’s been the recent scoring explosions from senior point guard Myles Miller, Stephen Curry-esque 3-point shooting from sophomore Hunter Hale, or freshman Jake Van Tubbergen emerging as the potential future of the program, these players stepping up when needed has helped discover the one trait they’ve been yearning for all year: how to mix all their different talents together to not only compete, but to win as a team.
That learning lesson will be put to the test as GVSU (9-8 overall, 4-5 GLIAC) will face off against the two top teams in the GLIAC: No. 1 ranked Ferris State (18-1 overall, 8-1 GLIAC) and Lake Superior State (14-3 overall, 8-1 GLIAC). Although Ferris has a better overall record than Lake Superior, GVSU head coach Ric Wesley sees both opponents as very similar challenges.
“You have to put Lake Superior State right with the team they have at Ferris,” Wesley said. “Both teams are similar because they have point guards and big guards that are extremely good and in the North Division right with us.”
Luckily for GVSU fans, both games will be played at home.
One game that is considered "home" but not played at the GVSU Fieldhouse Arena will be their matchup against Lake Superior State at the DeltaPlex Arena in Grand Rapids on Thursday, Jan. 18. The game will be the second of three games held at the DeltaPlex as part of both the men’s and women’s basketball teams' “Downtown Thursdays” series. The women will start at 6 p.m., while the men tip off at 8 p.m.
Downtown Thursdays also provide Laker fans with new opportunities designed to enhance their game-day experience, including expedited service, unique food options, and adult beverage selections provided to those 21 and older at a "pop-up courtside micro-pub," courtesy of local craft brewing giant and newly established GVSU Athletics corporate partner, New Holland Brewery.
Despite a second-half comeback attempt during the first game of the Downtown Thursdays series, the Lakers lost to Michigan Tech 78-68. Besides the game’s final score, the first attempt at the promotional event pointed out some major benefits—and learning lessons—that came with the venue.
“Once we got the kinks worked, everything seemed to work out when the game started,” Wesley said. “It’s a good facility and court. I’m just hoping we get a large turnout to come out and enjoy the different atmosphere.”
For sophomore guard Ben Lubitz, the environment of playing at the DeltaPlex was unlike anything he had previously experienced during his tenure at GVSU.
"It was a new experience for all of us, and I think we were taken aback on how cool the opportunity was," Lubitz said. "First half we didn’t play very well, but after getting used to the atmosphere, we finally found our rhythm."
One matchup that is worth the price of admission alone will be the point-guard battle of GVSU’s Miller and Lake Superior's Akaemji Williams, a Division II comparison to NBA superstar Russell Westbrook, according to Wesley. Williams, who stands at 5 foot 8 inches, currently averages 19.6 points (3rd in GLIAC) and 7.1 assists per game (1st in GLIAC).
“I’m just excited to see my teammate Myles Miller battle against one of the best players in the league,” Lubitz said. “They’re also around the same height, so I’m excited to see how each one will get the upper hand.”
On Saturday, Jan. 20, the Lakers will return to their home court to face the archrival Ferris State Bulldogs at 8 p.m. In an effort to promote the event, the GVSU Athletics marketing department announced they will be hosting a “Jersey Party” theme where they encourage students to wear their favorite jerseys to the game.
GVSU hasn't played Ferris yet this year, but they had a chance to watch them live during the GLIAC/GLVC Challenge to open the season in early November. Since then, GVSU has begun to solidify their rotations and find each player's strengths and weaknesses.
If there's one thing that coach Wesley has learned during his 14 years as GVSU's head coach, it's that he can never get complacent with each team's production.
"Coaches are never really comfortable, or even think that way," Wesley said. "We’re always on edge and constantly looking around the corner for the next thing to happen. We have such a tough teams on our schedule that we’re just focusing on the next game. Mainly, how can we put ourselves in the best position to win? There’s never really any chance to come up for air.”
For senior Miller, who scored a combined 50 points over his last two games, these contests against top competitors mean much more, especially in his final stretch of collegiate competition.
“I want to leave a legacy here,” Miller said. “I want to be a part of the team who wins a GLIAC Championship and makes a run at it. It all starts with this weekend of competition.”
For more information about Downtown Thursdays or to purchase tickets, visit www.gvsulakers.com.