Senior Nick Washburn has started for each of the last four seasons at Hillsdale. The 6’10” center was 2nd team All-GLIAC in 2011-12. This year he will be called upon to lead the team in the wake of three key departures at the end of last season.
You finished first in the GLIAC last season. This season you were picked to finish second. Do you guys have a chip on your shoulder?
We do at times.Going into it we thought we’d be ranked lower because of all the talent we lost. We thought Ashland would have gotten picked in front of us. Maybe Walsh. Still second’s pretty good even though we think we are the best team. Being ranked lower just gives us more motivation to prove people wrong.
Who is ranked in front of you?
Findlay. I know they’re ranked somewhere in the top 25 in the nation. I couldn’t tell you the exact number.
Who else is going to be tough competition this year?
Michigan Tech is going to be good. They have the returning player of the year. Grand Valley has Division 1 transfers like they do every year. Northwood is going to be good. There are going to be good teams spread throughout the league.
How are you guys preparing to replace Gerber, Guinane, and Eaton?
Its going to be tough for me personally in taking a leadership role because those guys left. But Gerber is a good player. He showed a lot of heart and led by example. All that Ryan Choinere and I can do, since we are the only two seniors, is to learn from the example they set and really move forward on the ground that they laid and the guys before them, Nick Meinhart, Luke Laser and all those guys.
What are going to be the team’s strong suits this year? Height?
I think we can defend really well. We will be one of the taller teams but we all move well. We aren’t selfish players.
Is Tharp a defense-minded coach?
That is what he loves to preach. That’s what we’ll do everyday in practice until March this year. That’s what he’s all about. You know how the saying goes; defense wins championships.
This will be your fourth year as a starter. How have you evolved as a player?
I’ve adapted to the way Coach Tharp has taught me to play.When I came in out of high school I really didn’t understand his system of a motion offense and the type of defense he runs. Now that I’m a senior I’m looking back and telling all our young guys, the freshmen, how to do the things I once didn’t know how to do. Now that I know the concepts I am still trying to get better at them and am always helping my teammates around me.
Is it natural for you to take on a leadership role and be vocal with the guys?
It is at times. Day to day I am always trying to get better and be the best leader for my team.
How do think the team has changed since your freshman year?
In my freshman year it was guard-oriented. We had a lot of quick guards. We had Tyler Brand who could shoot it. We had Luke Laser who could shoot it. Then we were really strong at the wing spot. As the years went on we went lower and lower. So my sophomore year we had Brent Eaton at the 3‑spot. He was a really strong, really good player. Then my junior year Brad Guinane was our best player, hands down. And he was the four-spot. This year our strong suit is Tim Dezelski and myself at the four and five-spot. So it’s almost like since I’ve been here our focus and strength has gone from the guards to the bigs. But overall we’ve become better teammates and more defensively sound.
Have you talked to Brad since he’s been in England?
I talk to him here and there. I check his stats all the time and see how he’s done. He’s doing well. I think he’s averaging around 11 points a game. I think his team has won more games now than they did all last season.
Are you interested in playing after college? Maybe go overseas?
That would be a blessing. I am going to keep trying to play as long as I can. I am going to ride this horse until it dies. If I work hard enough it can definitely be in my future. I’ve heard from a lot of people who didn’t take the opportunity to play overseas that they regret it.
If you were going to play in a 3 on 3 tournament with any current and former teammates, what would the dream team be?
Brad Guinane, Tim Dezeleski, and Tyler Gerber. Those are the three best players I’ve played with here because of their heart and passion. There are plenty of other ones that definitely could fit but I’ve gotten the time to gel with those guys.
What does it mean for the team to have a home crowd that goes nuts?
It means everything. We go to a small school and to have that kind of support feels great. Any support we have is awesome. You can’t thank them enough.
-Compiled by Phil Morgan