Steve Hawkins’ Western Michigan Broncos won 12 of 13 games before falling to Syracuse in the NCAA tournament Round of 64, and one of the keys to their run was guard David Brown. One of the best players in the Mid-American Conference, Brown led WMU with an average of 19.1 points to go along with 3.5 rebounds per contest.
With Shayne Whittington out of eligibility, losing Brown would have meant that the Broncos would attempt to return to the NCAA tournament without their top two scorers. Luckily for WMU that won’t be the case, as it was tweeted Thursday evening by David Drew of the Kalamazoo Gazette that Brown will return for his sixth and final season of eligibility.
Brown played in a total of 19 games in 2010-11 and 2011-12, with an ankle injury ending the first season after nine games and a knee injury being the reason ten games into the 2011-12 campaign. In the two seasons Brown has played since then he’s won the MAC’s Sixth Man of the Year award (2012-13) and was a first team All-MAC selection in 2013-14. Brown was also named MVP of the MAC tournament this past spring.
In addition to Brown the Broncos also welcome back forward Connor Tava, who averaged 11.8 points and 5.7 rebounds per game in 2013-14. In total four of the team’s top five scorers from last season return to Kalamazoo. And with their go-to option leading the way, Western Michigan will be one of the preseason favorites to win the MAC.
Nearly three months after leading his program to a MAC tournament title and a spot in the 2014 NCAA tournament field, Western Michigan head coach Steve Hawkins has been rewarded with a new six-year contract. The news was announced by the school Thursday morning, and the new deal bumps Hawkins’ annual base salary up to $225,000.
“I am proud of the things we have accomplished here at the University, but there is still work to do as we build for the future,” Hawkins said in the school release. “This new contract will allow me and the rest of my staff to continue to diligently work for the future of the program both on the court and in the community during an important time.”
WMU’s NCAA tournament appearance this spring was the program’s second under Hawkins, and during his tenure in Kalamazoo the Broncos have won nearly 57 percent of their games. Last season WMU finished with a record of 23-10, winning 14 of their 18 regular season MAC contests.
Unfortunately for Western Michigan they’ll have to account for the loss of their top two scorers from last season’s team, with guard David Brown (19.1 ppg, 3.5 rpg) and center Shayne Whittington (16.1, 8.9, 1.5 bpg) out of eligibility. However forward Connar Tava, who posted averages of 11.8 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game in 2013-14, will be back for his junior season.
Western Michigan lost two players on Tuesday night as junior guard Hayden Hoerdemann and freshman guard Leo Svete have both opted to leave the program, according to a report from David Drew of MLive.
Neither player was a significant contributor to last season’s Broncos team. The 6-foot-3 Hoerdemann only scored 95 points over three seasons with Western Michigan and will likely seek more playing time for his senior season.
Svete is coming off back-to-back ACL injuries and hasn’t played a basketball game at full speed in two years after redshirting this season. The 6-foot-5 freshman also missed his senior year of high school with injury and will seek a fresh start.
Western Michigan head coach Steve Hawkins confirmed the two players’ transfers to Drew.
“They’re great kids, tremendous kids,” Hawkins said to MLIVE. “I respect them for their decisions and we’ll do everything they can to help them. It’s all about playing time and them wanting to be on the floor and be competitors.”
Senior starter David Brown could petition the NCAA for a sixth season due to injury and freshman starter Tucker Haymond will also return for the Broncos. Sophomore Taylor Perry, freshman Jared Klein, and incoming guard Thomas Wilder will also be on the roster next season on the wing for Western Michigan.
In late April, MAC Freshman of the Year and arguably Western Michigan’s top returning player, Darius Paul, informed the coaching staff he was transferring out of the program. This came as a shock to head coach Steve Hawkins as Paul, the younger brother of former Illinois star Brandon Paul, averaged 10.4 points and 5.7 rebounds and looked to be the focal point of the program for the remainder of his career.
Paul’s mother, Lynda, told MLive.com on April 24th that her son has a “desire to play at a higher level,” and that there were four schools in the state of Illinois that had reached out to him. She continued to say:
“We’re pretty astute basketball people here – we’re not going to let him go somewhere where it would be a situation where it’s not better than the Western Michigan basketball situation. That would be crazy; that would be absolutely crazy.”
In a tweet Darius sent out late Saturday night, he made it known that the University of Illinois was one of these four schools and is where he will be spending his next four years. Per NCAA rules, he will out during the 2013-14 season, but become eligible for the next three seasons beginning in 2014-15.
Western Michigan went 22-13 last season and lost to George Mason in the semifinals of the CBI. The 22 wins was the most since 2003-04 when the Broncos won 25 games en route to a #11 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Despite the team’s success, Paul ostensibly had a desire to take his game to a higher level and in a better conference. Prior to his commitment to Western Michigan in October of 2011, he boasted offers from several high-profile programs such as Florida, Marquette, Miami (FL), and Missouri among others. Over the weekend, he attended Brandon’s postseason banquet at Illinois while on an official visit to the school.
Paul is the fifth player to transfer to Illinois during John Groce’s short time in Champaign. Since the end of this season, he is the third transfer Illinois has received as Illinois State junior forward Jon Ekey and Seton Hall sophomore guard Aaron Crosby also elected to play for the Illini.
You can find Kevin on twitter @KLDoyle11