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Published: Wednesday, 11/16/2011

Lourdes bolsters foundation of new basketball program

coach works to build team reputation

BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Head coach Andre Smith gives instruction during practice. The Gray Wolves, who don't have a basketball arena on campus, play their home games at Tam-O-Shanter. Head coach Andre Smith gives instruction during practice. The Gray Wolves, who don't have a basketball arena on campus, play their home games at Tam-O-Shanter.
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A lot of construction is going on at Lourdes University. The Gray Wolves are building a basketball program -- a complex, multiyear project.

"It definitely is a challenge, starting a program from the ground up like this," said head coach Andre Smith.

The Gray Wolves don't have an arena on campus, so they play their home games at Tam-O-Shanter. Smith said that right now, building a solid reputation is the top priority.

"When you are just starting, no one out there has heard of Lourdes University and the basketball program," he said. "You're a salesman first, so you have to sell yourself and sell the academics of the school, then move on to the basketball side of things."

Lourdes, which was a respectable 12-18 in its inaugural campaign last year, has built its roster using resources from across the map. The team has players from foreign countries and from Florida, New York, Illinois, and Michigan as well as a core from Ohio and the greater Toledo area.

As he recruited to fill his roster, Smith has placed a premium on finding players who work well as a unit.

"That's the difficult part about recruiting -- you always look for the talent, but all talent isn't good talent," he said. "The talent has to be able to gel with the other people you've got. It's a mixed chemistry that you have to get right in order for the team concept to work."

Scott graduate Marcus Outlaw, a sophomore on the Lourdes team who spent a previous season at Owens Community College, said he was attracted to the opportunity to be part of something new.

"I liked the idea of the program starting from the beginning, and having the chance to set the standard here," Outlaw said. "Because there's no basketball history here before last season, nobody knows about us and nobody is expecting anything from us. We need to show them and start making that history."

Smith said he sees indications that the Gray Wolves, who recently scored a 105-62 win over Ohio State-Mansfield, are headed in the proper direction.

"Number one, this is a great group of kids," Smith said. "Every coach will tell you they like to be around good people and that's the case here too. We came back this season with some more senior leadership, and I believe that we're more talented, we're bigger, and I like the way this group works."

Smith said he reminds his team that because they are putting in place the foundation for the basketball program, they have a lot of responsibility.

"We need to do things the right way and we need to set a good standard for the new players coming in," Smith said. "We have to establish the expectations and I like the way they are handling that. I think a lot of the leadership on this team."

Smith and the Gray Wolves hope to build a following as they do the groundwork with the program, experience success in the classroom and on the basketball court, and rely on a steady stream of players from the area to make that initial connection in the community.

"Especially at this level, you definitely have to have some local talent," Smith said. "When you have a local name or two, that gets the team name out in the community, then folks come out and watch. It helps. Every institution I've been at we've always had one or two local guys, and it definitely helps."

Outlaw and Whiteford's Jake Dupree carry that local torch at the moment. Outlaw said that as the Gray Wolves put together a reputation for playing good basketball, he expects their fan base to grow.

"As long as we play well, people will come and follow us," he said. "Me being from Toledo, I have family and friends and I know they'll come. If we do well, they'll bring more family and more friends.

"If we continue to play well, we'll put Lourdes on the map."

Contact Matt Markey at: mmarkey@theblade.com, 419-724-6510 or on Twitter @MattMarkey



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