For Anthony, Wheaton College, playoffs are a Sweet feeling

  • Wheaton College's Luke Anthony against Augustana College in a men's basketball game in Wheaton Wednesday.

      Wheaton College's Luke Anthony against Augustana College in a men's basketball game in Wheaton Wednesday. John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
 

Luke Anthony just wasn't feeling it at the University of Dayton. He is feeling it now at Wheaton College.

Despite not having played competitive basketball after his senior season at Wheaton North in 2017, the 6-foot-3 sophomore guard has made a good Thunder men's basketball team better since he transferred in after first semester last December.

Wheaton College's first guard off the bench, Anthony is the Thunder's third-leading scorer at 8.1 points a game. In about 21 minutes a game he has made 45 percent of his 3-point shots and 74 percent of his free throws.

Wheaton College (21-8) was 8-4 when he arrived and 13-4 since, headed to Friday's third-round playoff game in Rock Island against Augustana. It's the Thunder's first Division III Sweet Sixteen appearance since 2013-14.

His job is to "be an energy guy off the bench," said Anthony, who rejoins high school teammate Jack Bennett with the Thunder. Timothy Christian's Brandon Orange also is on the roster.

"My role, it's developed over the season but right now I'd say I'm like the spark off the bench, I bring more scoring to the team," he said.

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One might think Wheaton College doesn't need much more scoring aside from senior guard Aston Francis, out of Tyler, Texas. A 2017-18 Division III All-America twice named College Conference of Illinois-Wisconsin most outstanding player, Francis' 33-point average leads all NCAA divisions.

A two-time Jostens Award finalist as the best Division III men's player, Francis scored more than 40 points in each of the Thunder's playoff wins over Hanover and Wooster.

Augustana (26-3), ranked third by D3Hoops.com, is 2-0 against Wheaton College this season, winning 77-73 and 93-83. The Thunder will need all the scoring it can get, and probably better defense.

"I think most of the year they've (Augustana) been the best team in the country, but we were with them both games and we believe we can win," said Wheaton College coach Mike Schauer, father of Wheaton North senior guard Jacob Schauer.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Mike Schauer values Anthony's contributions.

"He can really shoot it, so he made it more difficult for teams to double Aston because Luke is such a great shooter. He's made a ton of big shots for us since he was inserted into the lineup and got playing time," Schauer said.

Wheaton College's Aston Francis against Augustana College in a men's basketball game in Wheaton Wednesday.
  Wheaton College's Aston Francis against Augustana College in a men's basketball game in Wheaton Wednesday. - John Starks | Staff Photographer

Anthony simply said it wasn't a great fit at Dayton, where he had committed to play quarterback for the football team. Anthony was redshirted as a freshman and didn't see time last fall. The business major will play football for Wheaton College.

Talking schools with his parents, he chose Wheaton College from among North Central College, Washington University (St. Louis) and Illinois Wesleyan. He also talked basketball.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I was like, why not play the game I love again," Anthony said.

His first practice with Wheaton College was Dec. 26.

"The first week I was really struggling, lots of ice baths. The coaches were really helpful and so were the guys on the team, really welcoming," he said.

"It was a really smooth transition, to be honest with you -- besides the fact that my body was hurting me. The coaches were great, they helped me, took me aside, really helped me with the philosophy and stuff. Everyone pitched in and helped me. It was really encouraging."

Getting a new lease on college life, and on basketball, Anthony doesn't even mind playing Augustana on its home court.

"Each game from here on out is just an opportunity to play with our brothers, the game we love. Especially for our seniors," he said.

Young men went west

In the upper bracket of Division III's sectional semifinalists is Loras College. Or, as we like to think of it, the far, far western suburbs.

Upsetting No. 15 North Central College 84-82, the 20th-ranked Duhawks (23-6) reached the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in program history. Their roster includes Demond George (Neuqua Valley), Matt Dacy-Seijo and brothers Josh and Jake Ruggles of Wheaton Warrenville South, Rowan McGowen (Wheaton North) and Trevor Hamilton (Hinsdale Central).

What's more, Loras has graduates of Bartlett, Geneva, St. Charles East, Lyons Twp., St. Joseph and Plano. The coach is Chris Martin, a former Elmhurst assistant whose associate head coach, Gabe Miller, assisted at Judson University in Elgin and coached for the Wheaton-based Mercury Elite program.

"Who doesn't want to go to college with some of your AAU (or) high school friends?" said Josh Ruggles, who during high school set a world record making 135 3-point shots in five minutes. He's one of Loras' five Chicago-area starters and a 1,000-point scorer along with defensive whiz George and Bartlett's Ryan DiCanio.

These connections make it easy to find rides home during breaks and ensure that the Duhawks travel well at least between here and Dubuque. North Central's Gregory Arena hosted the prior game in Naperville, but Ruggles said, "To us it was like a home game."

Next up is No. 4 Oshkosh (25-3) offering Glenbard South's Brandon Whiteside and Downers Grove South's Sam Ebersold on its roster.

"We're just going to take it one at time," Ruggles said. "We understand that nothing's guaranteed at this point. Nothing's been guaranteed for the past two, three weeks."

Threes company

Let's hear it for Glenbard South senior forward Maggie Bair, who in the midst of leading the Raiders to second place in girls Class 3A basketball last weekend also finished second in the 3A Three-Point Showdown.

The 6-foot-2 Drake University recruit made 10 shots in the opening round to qualify for the 3A finals. Once there, she finished second with 7.

In Class 2A Lisle sophomore Cassidy Allen made it out of her sectional to compete in the Three-Point Showdown.

Class 4A had several DuPage County representatives: Waubonsie Valley sophomore Mykah Berkompas, Downers Grove North senior Lauren Sebek and junior Ellie Gross, and Wheaton Warrenville South senior Mira Emma.

Also, Daily Herald DuPage County All-Area captain Darrione Rogers, a Lake Park junior, hit 9 of 15 in the 4A competition. Downers South senior Maggie Greco reached the 4A finals, advancing in a runoff against Gross after both made 10 the first round.

The eventual Queen of the Hill was Pekin sophomore Taylor Goss. Bair won the award two years ago.

doberhelman@dailyherald.com

Follow Dave on Twitter @doberhelman1

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