By: Brian Dickmann | 04-28-16
Photo via Getty Images
Darner implemented a brand new, completely different style of basketball in Green Bay this past year, bringing his up-tempo “RP40” (Relentless Pressure for 40 minutes) style to replace the “CDR” (Compete, Defend, Rebound) mantra used under former head coach Brian Wardle.
He was able to install his high scoring offense despite having players that were geared more towards the previous regime’s style.
A full offseason of practice in the system as well as Darner’s first recruiting class featuring an impressive duo of incoming players can only help Green Bay take a step towards overcoming the program’s next big obstacle: winning an NCAA Tournament game for the first time since 1994.
With recruiting for the upcoming 2016 season wrapped up – Trevor Anderson (Stevens Point) and Kam Hankerson (Novi, MI) signed last November – the focus this summer turns towards the 2017 class. The Phoenix will have to replace at least six outgoing seniors, meaning the coaching staff will have 6 available scholarships in which to bring in players that fit Darner’s style.
“It’s going to be a big year next year for us,” Darner said. “We’re done with the upcoming season but the  class is a big recruiting class for us. We potentially could have to sign 6 guys.”
By: Brian Dickmann | 03-28-16
Photo via Green Bay Athletics
At this time 12 months ago, the Green Bay Phoenix men’s basketball program was in a state of uncertainty.
It had just lost its head coach, Brian Wardle, to Bradley and lost all three members of its 2015 recruiting class as well as promising freshman Daeshon Francis.
Enter Linc Darner, four newcomers, a completely new system, and one remarkable run to the program’s first NCAA Tournament appearance in 20 years.
What a difference a year makes.
Now, the uncertainty of a year ago has been completely replaced with stability and excitement as the Phoenix look to build momentum. Green Bay will likely be a contender for the title again next season along with Valparaiso and Oakland atop the Horizon League.
The Phoenix will have an entire offseason to continue to grow in Darner’s system as well as bring in a couple new players to fit that system.
To be sure, replacing departing seniors Carrington Love and Jordan Fouse won’t be easy. Both scored over 1,000 points in their Green Bay careers and have their names scattered throughout the program’s record book.
They contributed over a third of the Phoenix total offense this past season and more importantly provided senior leadership to help navigate the choppy waters of a new system with an inexperienced team.
But next year’s team will be anything but inexperienced.
By: Brian Dickmann | 03-23-16
Photo: Joe Sienkiewicz / USA Today Network - Wisconsin
Stevens Point standout point guard Trev Anderson has been named Wisconsin’s state high school co-player of the year by the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association. He shares the award with his high school teammate and Marquette signee Sam Hauser.
Anderson, who signed with Green Bay in November, was named the Wisconsin Valley Conference player of the year in all four of his high school seasons and helped lead SPASH to a 100-6 overall record during his time there.
The Panthers finished this season a perfect 28-0 and won their second consecutive state championship last weekend at the Kohl Center in Madison.
Overall, Stevens Point has won 37 consecutive games dating back to last season.
Anderson led the Panthers in scoring at 24.6 points per game this season and also contributed 4.8 assists, 4.1 rebounds, and 1.6 steals per game.
Most impressive, though, is his ability to shoot the basketball. The 6’2” Anderson made 66 of 120 (55.0%) of his three point attempts and 120 of 137 (87.6%) free throw attempts this season, which will be a major boost for a Phoenix team next season that lacks consistent free throw and outside shooting.
He will be the first Wisconsin Mr. Basketball award recipient to play for Green Bay since Tony Bennett who won the award at Green Bay Preble in 1988.
“I think it’s going to be cool to play at the Resch,” Anderson told WBAY’s Kaitlyn Sharkey. “I’ve watched 2 or 3 games this year and I loved it so hopefully we can sell that thing out a couple times and that would make the experience even more exciting.”
Anderson’s offensive abilities will go a long way towards helping the Phoenix next season, who need to replace outgoing seniors Carrington Love and Jordan Fouse. The duo accounted for more than a third of Green Bay’s offense this past season.
His arrival to Green Bay will help to keep momentum rolling. The Phoenix made their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 20 years and now will look to build on that foundation.
More exciting things are in store as the program enters year number two of the Linc Darner era, meaning more experience in the system and more players to fit that system.
“I think [Darner] plays well with guards in his system that can shoot the ball, and I think I can shoot it a little bit, so I think I’m going to fit that system well.”
By: Brian Dickmann | 03-09-15
Photo: Duane Burleson / AP
Linc Darner knew it even before he coached Green Bay in their first game this season: the only thing that mattered was getting the Phoenix back to the Big Dance.
“I think we can get Green Bay back where it needs to be, and that's in the NCAA Tournament,” Darner said back in October. “It's been 20 years. It's not like it's been 2 or 3 years, it’s been awhile and that's our goal we've stressed since day one."
That goal was reached Tuesday night in an emphatic way.
Green Bay clinched its first NCAA Tournament bid since 1996 with a 78-69 victory over Wright State at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.
The victory capped off a stretch of four wins in four days and clinched the program’s first Horizon League Tournament championship since 1995, Green Bay’s inaugural year in the conference.
“What an unbelievable job by our guys,” Darner said after the game. “The way they played here lately and battled through everything and compete, four games in four days, found a way to get it done once again.”
Seniors Carrington Love and Jordan Fouse, playing in their 2nd straight Horizon League title game, came up big all tournament long including Tuesday night. Fouse paced the Phoenix balanced scoring attack with 16 points and 7 rebounds while Love contributed 10 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds, and a steal.
The duo had lost in the conference tournament three straight years in heartbreaking fashion after coming so close each season.
“Great win for these 2 guys,” Darner said of his seniors. “They’ve been very, very close and we got over the hump. We talked about adversity all year, that we were going to hit adversity at certain times during the year and we had to fight through it and believe in what we wanted to do.”
“These guys have believed in our system all year when a lot of people probably thought ‘well you can’t win the big ones playing the way you guys play.’ I think they proved everybody wrong with that because I think you can win with playing the way we play.”
All five Green Bay starters scored in double figures including Khalil Small (10 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks), Kenneth Lowe (12 points, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks), and Charles Cooper (15 points including 2 highlight reel dunks).
The Phoenix again only went 8 players deep but showed little sign of fatigue. Green Bay got bench contributions from Jamar Hurdle (6 points and 4 rebounds in 11 minutes) and Tevin Findlay (7 points in 10 minutes) as well as Turner Botz (2 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist in 19 minutes).
The 8 man rotation has been key in securing four straight wins and playing 165 minutes of basketball with little to no rest.
“I thought we played extremely well again tonight,” said Darner. “I thought we’ve played extremely well all four games. I know the first game we didn’t shoot the ball well but I think that may have to do with the first time of playing in here. But I thought if we could get by the first one we could shoot the ball a lot better and I think we showed that the last couple games as we shot it extremely well.”
But after the game the spotlight shone brightest on the Green Bay seniors. At the end of the day it was those two who had worked so hard to get back to this point and finally take the next step, something Darner promised them he would help them accomplish before the season.
“It’s probably one of the best days of my life,” Fouse said. “We worked hard all year….we’ve been working hard all four years now and it finally paid off.”
“Coach Darner, he’s a great coach. He got us here. He told us from day one he was going to get me and Carrington to the NCAA Tournament and he kept his word.”
Fouse, Love, and Cooper were named to the Horizon League’s all-tournament team with Fouse being named the tournament MVP.
Unlike two years ago, the Phoenix won’t have to sweat out Selection Sunday. They know they’re in and now just wait to see when, where, and who they will be playing.
Green Bay will have plenty of confidence after marching through the inaugural Motor City Madness. The Phoenix will enter the NCAA Tournament having won 8 of their last 9 games
“It was just trust,” said Fouse. “He [Darner] talked with confidence, you could hear it in his voice. He makes you believe what he says. That’s what helped us out all year is just hearing his voice and telling us we were going to get this NCAA Tournament bid and that’s where we’re at.”
Darner’s promise at the beginning of the season paved the way for Tuesday night’s championship victory. But it was up the players to buy in and make it happen.
“I had two options, either to say he’s full of crap or believe him from day one,” Love said. “It’s easy to see which route I chose.”
Jordan Fouse named Horizon League Tournament MVP - Phear the Phoenix
UWGB men earn big to NCAA tournament - Green Bay Press-Gazette
UWGB lands first NCAA bid since 1996 - Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
Green Bay 78, Wright State 69: Phoenix wins Horizon, earns NCAA bid - Detroit Free Press
By: Brian Dickmann | 12-31-15
Photo via Green Bay Athletics
To nobody’s surprise, lowered expectations coupled with a below average home schedule has resulted in less folks in the seats at the Resch Center this season.
Green Bay (7-5) finished the home non-conference portion of its schedule averaging 2,339 fans per game for five games the past two months, down 23.9% compared to last year when the Phoenix drew 3,072 to its non-conference home games.
A key factor is the recalibration of expectations Green Bay fans needed prior to this season. After 24 wins in each of the past two seasons, the Phoenix graduated four seniors, including fan favorite and all-time great Keifer Sykes, and underwent a coaching change that has resulted in a philosophy change on the court.
Still, Green Bay is playing an exciting style of basketball, has won 7 of its last 9 games, and went 4-1 at home during the non-conference portion of their schedule with the lone loss coming at the buzzer against Toledo.
The main factor very well may be the home schedule. While hardcore college basketball fans know that Akron and Toledo are solid mid-major teams with NCAA Tournament aspirations this season and that Pacific plays in a challenging league with Gonzaga and St Mary’s, those match-ups aren’t going to get the casual fan to flock to the Resch Center. Games against two non-Division I schools are even worse.
“There’s a lot of things that go into scheduling,” Green Bay head coach Linc Darner told Matt Menzl during his latest appearance on WNFL’s Inside Phoenix Basketball. “First off, and a lot of people don’t know this, when you play in a preseason tournament one of your other games is against a non-Division I.”
The fact that the Phoenix have won 48 games the last two years and appeared in the NIT two straight seasons doesn’t exactly have teams clamoring to make a trip to face Green Bay at the Resch Center.
“For us, the challenge is Green Bay has been very good,” Darner said. “Teams don’t want to go play good teams. If we had a real bad year this year we’d probably have everybody in America call us and want to schedule us.
“We have a lot of teams that at the beginning of this year we called about and they said ‘well, we want to see how you guys do. We’re going to wait and see how you do before we decide what we’re going to do.”