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Published: Friday, 10/26/2007

Falcons ready to pick up pace in MAC basketball

BY RYAN AUTULLO
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

BOWLING GREEN - The Lou era promises to be a new era.

Conservative in his demeanor and liberal in his coaching philosophies, Louis Orr has brought a different approach to the men's basketball program at Bowling Green State University.

Orr is everything former coach Dan Dakich was not during the past decade.

Orr has a reserved personality. Dakich was fiery. Orr plans to run an up-tempo offense. Dakich called for more deliberate sets.

Perhaps the first hurdle to overcome for the Falcons will be adjusting to a different voice and a different set of principles.

"Our guys have really bought in and worked hard," Orr said. "We play a totally different style than what they had in the past under coach Dakich. Probably the biggest challenge is how quickly they adapt, but so far it's been great."

Suddenly a team that finished just 13-18 and graduated its best player looks improved.

Consider the following:

•Nate Miller, BG's leading returning scorer, will play the first full season of his career. Miller, who averaged 14.1 points and 7.7 rebounds in 23 games, sat out the first semester last year after transferring from UNC-Wilmington.

•Joe Jakubowski, a freshman from St. John's, will provide BGSU with its first true point guard in several seasons. Jakubowski originally signed with Rice but reconsidered and signed with BGSU in June. He will split time with junior Darryl Clements, who has played mostly off the ball until now.

•Freshman forward Chris Knight, whom Dakich raved about, is eligible to play after sitting out last season. Orr called the 6-foot-7 Knight one of the most versatile and athletic players on the team.

•Center Otis Polk has dropped to 280 pounds and has increased his stamina, which should allow him to play more than the 8.6 minutes he averaged in 2006.

•The junior class is no longer young or inexperienced. Erik Marschall, Brian Moten, Clements, and Dusan Radivojevic are entering their third year in the program. Each averaged at least 15 minutes a game last year, but they will be asked to increase their production. Orr is excited about the prospects of Moten, who averaged 4.7 points last year and converted 47 percent of his attempts.

"I think this could be a breakout year for him," Orr said. "He's been one of the most impressive guys [in practice]. He's a guy that's knocking at the door of becoming one of our top scorers and one of the better scorers in the MAC."

BG, though, is still fairly young. Ryne Hamblet, a shooting guard, is the only senior - and this will be just his second year with the program. Hamblet said he will embrace a leadership role, and he spoke that way while assessing his team during yesterday's media day at Anderson Arena.

"I see big improvement among everybody that's come back this year," Hamblet said. "Otis Polk is losing weight and running the floor better, Erik Marschall is getting healthier, and the freshmen, Joe Jakubowski and Cameron Madlock, are going to help us out a lot."

Orr considers himself a defensive-minded coach, placing a higher emphasis on rebounding and hustling than shooting percentage. But Orr's offensive philosophies will be more visible. He wants the offense to push the ball at a quick pace, a style played more in the East, where he previously coached at Seton Hall, than in the Midwest.

As opposed to the motion offense run previously at BG, Orr wants his guards to penetrate with the ball and for his post players to work in the paint rather than set screens on the perimeter.

"We have more freedom," Clements said. "Coach Orr wants us to make plays. He doesn't want us to play like robots."

Orr knows that rebuilding a once proud program will take time. The Falcons, winners of just eight league games over the past two years, are picked to finish last in the Mid-American Conference. He's not making any lofty promises, but he's also not setting limitations.

"I don't know what our potential is," Orr said. "I believe in this team. We're going to fight for a championship like everybody else. I don't know if you play for second place or you go in thinking we're going to win this many games. I've never been a coach that believes that."

Contact Ryan Autullo at:

rautullo@theblade.com.



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