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College basketball: Aurora University shores up its weaknesses

AurorUniversity’s Scott Laskowski (right) averaged 15.3 points 8.5 rebounds for Spartans last season. | Donnell Collins~For Sun-Times Media

Aurora University’s Scott Laskowski (right) averaged 15.3 points and 8.5 rebounds for the Spartans last season. | Donnell Collins~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: December 12, 2012 6:41AM

James Lancaster’s world doesn’t revolve around so-so. Mediocre isn’t a word in his vocabulary.

Yet that’s exactly what Lancaster’s Aurora University men’s basketball team was a year ago when the Spartans struggled to finish 13-13 overall and 8-8 in the Northern Athletics Conference.

Despite having some experience back off the 2010-11 team, the Spartans had too many weaknesses.

“I thought, really, a point guard that understood the role of making his teammates better, we didn’t play great defense and we didn’t get the ball into the post enough,” Lancaster said.

Last year’s team also, at times, shot the ball poorly and took ill-advised shots. While AU did hit 42 percent of its shots from the field, it was a weak 33 percent from beyond the 3-point arc.

Lancaster and assistant coaches Lance Robinson and Mark Lindo have taken steps to improve all of those weaknesses for this season, which opens at 7 p.m. Thursday against Augustana at Thornton Gym.

“We have a nice group of guys coming back and we have some nice new players,” Lancaster said. “We have 16 guys that can play. The only problem is, I can’t play 16.”

Nine of the 16 were contributors — either as starters or key reserves — last year.

Leading the way are seniors Mike Bumber, Ryan Crow, Esteban Vega, Joel Iventosch and Ryan Adams along with junior Scott Laskowski.

Bumber started 21 games and averaged 10.5 points, Crow was a starter in 24 games and averaged 8.5 points and 4.6 rebounds per outing. Vega, Iventosch and Adams were top substitutes off the bench, while Laskowski started 25 games and averaged 15.3 points and 8.5 rebounds.

Also returning are junior guard Jordan Hester and sophomore inside players Kyle Pilmer and Joe Kwiatkowski (Oswego).

Pilmer (West Aurora) is the tallest Spartan at 6-8.

“He’s really improved,” Lancaster said of Pilmer. “He’s really developed physically.”

Laskowski (6-5), Kwiatkowski (6-6), Crow (6-6) and freshmen C.J. Schutt (6-6 from Aurora Christian), Kalmon Stokes (6-4 from Oswego East) and John Avery (6-5 from Newark) are counted on to provide some muscle inside.

Junior transfers Marious and Marquis Lobdell are also expected to contribute. Marious (6-0) will likely start at point guard with Marquis in the mix at shooting guard.

Sophomores Sean Gant (Oswego) and Gavin Walker are also in the mix at the guard spots along with the speedy Vega, Hester, Iventosch and Bumber.

While Lakeland and Edgewood are the favorites in the NAC, Lancaster isn’t ready to count the Spartans out of contention.

“In our league there is a lot of parity,” Lancaster said. “Our focus is always to win our league (and) we have the talent to do that.”

Women’s basketball

Former men’s player Ari Iventosch takes over as interim head coach and Shane Roland, a former teammate, will be his assistant.

The Spartans finished last season with a dismal 2-23 record. Five players return — senior guards Angela Smith, Joree Green and Tommeka Jackson, sophomore forward Neely Marks and sophomore guard Rachel Rivera (Rosary).

Smith is the leading returning scorer at 5.9 points per game, while the 5-11 Marks averaged 5.4 points and 3.3 rebounds in 16 games. Freshmen 5-9 Marta Medina (East Aurora) and 5-9 Raiven Smith, will be counted on to help AU improve.

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