Thursday, February 24, 2011

Wierzba, UIS learned on the job

Hired one month before the men’s college basketball season started, University of Illinois Springfield Prairie Stars’ coach Ben Wierzba hit the ground running last September.

He finally came up for air Sunday, one day after the Stars’ ended the season with a 78-70 win over Lewis. Wierzba’s first foray as a head coach finished with UIS compiling an 8-17 overall record and a 4-14 Great Lakes Valley Conference mark.

“I’m very appreciative of how hard these guys worked,” Wierzba said. “Me coming in three weeks into school and them not knowing me, they bought in and did what we asked.”

The Stars suffered through long stretches without a win, but they ended the season on an up note.

“It was a day-by-day process trying to get better each day, and these guys continued to do that,” Wierzba said. “As you could see at the end of the year, we were playing probably our best basketball.

“It got to a point where it got a little bit difficult, but they came to practice every day trying to get better. It paid off the last week of the season.

“Offensively, we came around from where we had been shooting the ball earlier in the year. I told the guys I thought we could shoot the ball. We just needed to relax.

“Our defense really has to make bigger strides for next year, but I thought on Saturday it was one of our better defensive games that we played.”

Wierzba reflected on the season in a February 24, 2011, article in The State Journal-Register.

Download a PDF of the article