PantherU

Panthers look to prove people wrong

After finishing in the basement of the Horizon League a season ago with an 8-24 record, and being predicted by the coaches and sports information directors to finish last in conference this season, the Milwaukee Panthers are looking to prove people wrong.

“I think you should play every game with a chip on your shoulder, doesn’t matter if it is your first or your last. I think this team is good,” said senior forward Malcolm Moore. “Sky is the limit. I think we can be a very, very good team.

“We have all the keys to be a good team. It’s just a matter if we want to gel together and play right. Which I think we will. We have a group of guys that know how to play the game, want to play the game, want to win. They want to win, everybody wants to win.”

With the move back to the U.S. Cellular arena, there is excitement surrounding the program, but with 11 new faces, there are still some unknowns about how this team will perform.

“From how practice has been looking, and how much more of a team we are this year, I think sky is the limit with this group,” said sophomore forward J.J. Panoske. “Even though we have eleven new faces, we got a lot of guys who can be productive off the bat.”

Sophomore forward Matt Tiby and junior point guard Steve McWhorter are two of the new faces, but both of them will be starting for the Panthers this season.

McWhorter is a true point guard who will allow senior guard Jordan Aaron to move to shooting guard, while Tiby will be playing along side Panoske underneath the basketball. He will provide the Panthers with a lot of energy, something that was lacking last season.

“My main contribution to this team is probably bringing the edge on defense,” said Tiby. “I am very vocal and you’ll here that during the games. Just trying to get this team riled up and get us more energized then last season.”

Tiby will be a great addition and contributor to this team, along with some of the other new faces who will see time off of the bench including Malcolm Moore and JeVon Lyle.

With so many new players, it will still be a work in progress trying to get everyone to gel together, but when they do, this team could be scary as they have a lot of talent and depth.

“The guys have been putting in that time,” said head coach Rob Jeter. “The key to all of this is that these guys have to learn how to play together.

“One thing with all the new faces is that once they learn how to play together because they are buying in… now it is just a matter of getting everyone together on one team and get use to playing together.

“I think when that all happens, I really do, I really know we’ll be on the right track to be competing for a conference championship. But more importantly for us it has been a lot about respect, to really get that respect back for Milwaukee basketball, and that respect back for wearing that uniform.”

Non-Conference Schedule Breakdown:

To prepare for Horizon League conference action the Panthers will face some tough non-conference opponents.

To open their season they will travel to Chicago to take on former Horizon League foe, Loyola University, who finished last season with 15 wins and dropped seven games by three points or less. This season the Ramblers are young with only three-scholarship upperclassman. It should be interesting to see how the Ramblers do against Milwaukee in their first game after losing their exhibition game to Lewis University 82-70.

The Panthers will then face Davidson on the road. Although Milwaukee beat Davidson last season at home, the Wildcats will not be an easy team to knock off, as they were a NCAA tournament team a season ago. De’Mon Brooks returns for the Wildcats as he was selected the Southern Conference Preseason Player of the Year for a second consecutive season.

After these two tough games to open the season the Panthers will then take part in the Northern Illinois Tournament, and face three different teams. They will face San Jose State (9-20 last season), who is in the Mountain West conference, and features an up-tempo style offense.

Then they will play James Madison, who won the Colonial Athletic Association last season, but were predicted to finish in seventh this season, as they are the second youngest team in the country.

The final game as part of the NIU Tournament will be against Northern Illinois. The Huskies are an experienced team with eight letter winners returning from last season, but they finished last season with an overall record of 5-25.

After playing their first five games on the road, Milwaukee will finally play their first home game of the season at the U.S. Cellular Arena against DePaul. Last season DePaul beat the Panthers 84-50, and finished the season with an 11-21 record overall. The Blue Demons have seven new players this year, and have five scholarship players who are six feet eight inches or taller.

Milwaukee’s next test will come on the road as they face Tennessee Tech. The Golden Eagles beat the Panthers last season 69-58 and finished with an overall record of 12-17. This team had some roster turnover as they lost three key players, but they have nine new guys coming in.

Judson will then travel to Milwaukee to face the Panthers at home towards the end of November.

The Panthers will then hit the road and head to Kansas City to take on the UMKC Kangaroos. The Kangaroos return 47 percent of its scoring from last season, and although they have six seniors, they also have six freshman and nine newcomers.

The first game in December the Panthers will face Northern Iowa at home. Northern Iowa finished last season 21-15 overall, but they lost their top scorer, as well as two other solid offensive options.

Bradley will then travel to Milwaukee but instead of playing at the U.S. Cell, the Panthers will battle the Braves at the Klotsche Center. The Braves were predicted to finish fifth in the Missouri Valley Conference, with two players receiving all-league honors.

The hardest non-conference game Milwaukee will play will be against in state rival, Wisconsin. Heading to Madison will not be an easy task for the Panthers, who have only beat the Badgers once, which happened in 1992.

The final two non-conference games for Milwaukee will come against Northeastern and Alabama State in the Westin Holiday Classic. Northeastern has a solid season a year ago winning 20 games and making an appearance in the NIT. Alabama State was 10-22 last season, and was predicted to finish seventh in the SWAC.

Five Can’t Miss Games:

The Milwaukee Panthers will play some tough and important games this season that will determine if the Panthers can return back to a successful program.

Milwaukee at Davidson, November 8th, 6 pm: This will be a difficult matchup early on in the season, against Davidson who made an appearance in the NCAA Tournament a season ago. If the Panthers want to show they are for real, and deserve to be shown some respect, then they need to win this game.

Milwaukee at Wisconsin, December 11th, 7 pm: A Milwaukee Panthers basketball team has not beat the Wisconsin Badgers since the 1992-1993 season, and they will be looking to beat their former head coach, Bo Ryan, for the first time. This is a hard test against their in state rival, who was predicted to finish fourth in the Big Ten. If the Panthers want to be taken seriously, as well as receiving some national attention, they need to play the game of their life against the Badgers.

Green Bay vs. Milwaukee, January 12th, 1 pm. Time Warner Cable: Green Bay was predicted to finish first in the Horizon League this season, and are led by inside-outside duo of Alec Brown and Keifer Sykes. Both were also preseason first team selections. This will be a big game against in-state rivals, and if the Panthers want to be a force in conference, then this is a must win.

Milwaukee at Wright State, January 21st, 6 pm. Time Warner Cable: Wright State was edged out by Green Bay for the top spot in the preseason poll by one point, but the Raiders could easily be the best team in the league. Entering the season the Raiders return 97.2 percent of their scoring and 91.7 percent of its minutes from last season. After being one of the youngest teams in the country a season ago, they are now one of the most experienced. This will be a huge test for Milwaukee against an experienced team, and a must win to show the other teams in the conference that the Panthers are a team to be taken seriously.

Milwaukee at Green Bay, February 8th, 1 pm. Time Warner Cable: This is another important game against the Phoenix, who are an in state rival, and predicted to finish a top the conference this season. This game will have even more meaning if both teams are near the top in conference. Anytime you play against a rival, it is always an important game that you need to win, and this game could be even bigger for Milwaukee if they lose against them in their first meeting.

Starting Five – What the Panthers need to do to be improved from last season:

After finishing in the basement of the Horizon League the Panthers have a lot of things they need to improve on if they want to be successful. One of their biggest areas they need to improve on is distributing the ball. Last season they finished last in conference in assists per game with 10.9.

The Panthers now have a true point guard in Steve McWhorter, which allows Jordan Aaron to move to shooting guard. If the Panthers want to be successful they have to be able to share the ball, otherwise the offense will not be much better than last seasons.

Rebounding will be another key for the Panthers, after last season when they finished last in the Horizon League in rebounding margin. The Panthers have Panoske returning along with a healthy Kyle Kelm, and new comers Malcolm Moore and Matt Tiby to add to the frontcourt rotation. These four guys should improve the Panthers rebounding, and they have already shown that it will be better this season.

In their exhibition game against Marion, the Panthers completely dominated the boards. Milwaukee out rebounded Marian 49-29 including 22 rebounds on the offensive side, and if this can continue, the Panthers will have a great offense

With an improvement on offensive rebounding, this will help give the Panthers more second chance opportunities, and better offense in general. This will allow the Panthers to shoot more, while also allowing them to get the ball inside to draw fouls.

Last season they were last or near the bottom in every offensive category including points per game, field goal percentage, three point shooting percentage and free throw percentage.

If the Panthers can improve their offensive rebounding, they will have more opportunities to score and it will give them a better chance of winning closer games.

Winning games will help create an exciting atmosphere, but the Panthers need to make sure that no matter how the game or season is going that they keep the energy up. With the addition of Matt Tiby, this should not be a problem.

He will be a huge energy giver, and this will cause his teammates and fans to have more energy while also intimidating the opposing team. Energy is key and when the players are having fun, they are usually winning games.

The last thing the Panthers need to correct is injuries and stepping up to fill in a void. While injuries are apart of the game, the Panthers now have depth unlike last season. When players went down last year or were struggling, the Panthers did not have anyone they could rely to make a difference on the court.

If the Panthers are unable to have a deep bench with numerous players able to contribute to this team, it could be another long season.

After finishing last in the Horizon League a season ago, there are numerous things the Panthers need to improve on, but as long as they play team basketball and are able to do the little things right, they should be much improved.

Unsung Heroes:

With 11 newcomers the Milwaukee Panthers have a lot of players that no one knows about. Kyle Kelm, Austin Arians, and Thierno “BoBo” Niang are three players that not many people know about and will be contributors to the Panthers success, but there are three bigger unsung heroes.

Matt Tiby is a sophomore forward, who is not well known by very many people unless you saw Milwaukee play against Marian in the exhibition game. Tiby provides the Panthers with an inside presence on both sides of the ball, but most importantly he is an energy player.

No matter if Tiby is on the floor or taking a quick breather on the bench you will hear him yelling words of encouragement to his teammates. He is a team first player, who will be a difference maker for the Panthers this season.

Malcolm Moore is a senior forward who transferred to Milwaukee from UTEP. He has had knee issues in the past but has said that this is the healthiest he has been in the last couple of seasons.

If he is healthy, he could be a big contributor off the bench for the Panthers as he is an inside presence. He is able to score from all over the court and provides Milwaukee with veteran leadership.

Another new face for the Panthers is junior point guard, Steve McWhorter. His name has come up with some people who cover Horizon League basketball, but the average fan would not know who he is.

McWhorter had to sit out all last season after transferring from Indiana State, but he still was able to practice with the team. This gives his a strong present on the team, with his teammates understanding his game.

The Racine native is a true point guard, who will allow Jordan Aaron to move to his natural position of shooting guard. If the Panthers want to be successful this season, they need McWhorter to have a great season distributing the ball.

Every player, whether they are well known or not, on the Panthers will be key to their success whether they are on the floor or acting as cheerleaders on the bench. Tiby, Moore, and McWhorter are all newcomers, and they should help the Panthers return to winning ways this season.

The Last Word:

One thing is for sure the Milwaukee Panthers will be an improved team, but how improved they are will be the question. Whether it is a .500 record or a conference championship, we will have to wait and see, but one thing is for sure the Panthers have the talent to make some noise in conference play.

With 11 new faces many people might think of this as a bad thing, but many of these players already have experience of playing college ball somewhere else. Not only do these players bring experience, but they also bring a desire to win.

The saying Rob Jeter has been using so far this season is “reboot.” The Panthers are starting over or rebooting, and it is time for them to start a new tradition and winning culture for Panther basketball.

With the return to the Cell you can already see a renewed excitement for basketball in Milwaukee, but fans truly will not get excited unless they are watching a winning team.

The Milwaukee Panthers have a chip on their shoulder and are using the last place preseason prediction as motivation. While it is early to tell how good the Panthers will really be, one thing is for sure is that they will be a much improved team over last season.

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