An otherwise promising start for the Lindenwood-Belleville Lynx men’s basketball season has been tempered a bit by the loss of senior starting point guard Chris Deanes to a broken foot and the delayed debut of 7-foot St. John’s transfer Joey De La Rosa as he awaits his release.
Deanes suffered a broken foot during an Oct. 22 scrimmage against Southwestern Illinois College and is expected to return in January.
“Having a returning leader and captain and starter that is not available, that’s definitely a challenge for us,” said LU-B coach Scott Spinner, whose team is 3-3 and in its sixth season since starting the program at the former Belleville West High School location. “He was probably the largest piece of the puzzle from a returning guard standpoint. He was definitely our floor general and he was our best defender as well.
“When you’re missing two starters you feel that impact.”
Lindenwood-Belleville was 21-12 last season, including a 16-6 record in the NAIA American Midwest Conference. The biggest losses to graduation were two-time All-American Craig Annderson and career rebounding leader Lawson Warren, though the Lynx have four players with NCAA Division I experience.
The Lynx (3-3) got ready for the American Midwest Conference season with an 82-79 win Friday at Missouri Valley. ShunQuez Stephens led the way with 15 points and 18 rebounds for his second straight game in double-figure scoring and rebounding.
Nate Sims reached at least 15 points for the fourth straight game while T.J. Jackson had 15 points and Sean McGee had 14.
Next up is the conference opener against Williams Baptist on Thursday before a key road contest Saturday against ninth-ranked Freed-Hardeman.
Spinner said De La Rosa, a senior center from the Bronx, N.Y., can’t be activated to the roster until he receives his transfer release from St. John’s. De La Rosa played two seasons at Florida International before transferring to St. John’s for the 2014-15 season.
“We’re still waiting on a response from St. John’s,” Spinner said. “We’re pushing them for that and still haven’t gotten it, but he’s been cleared by the NAIA. He’s got great presence on the court, it will change things tremendously for us.
“He’s a tremendous offensive player, but more than anything will provide a presence at the defensive end.”
In 53 Division I games at St. John’s and Florida International, De La Rosa has 39 points, 47 rebounds and eight blocked shots.
Andrew Douby, a 6-5 senior, has been the top scorer for the Lynx at 17.6 points per game and also averages 5.8 rebounds. Others in double-figure scoring include 6-6 junior Jackson (17.5 ppg), freshman point guard McGee (12.7 ppg, seven 3-pointers) and 6-5 junior Sims (12.3 ppg, nine 3-pointers.
Stephens, a 6-6 senior who transferred from South Carolina-Upstate, is averaging 9.8 points and 12 rebounds while 6-8 junior Adam Hendrix contributes nine points per game along with 6.5 rebounds.
“We’re off to a little bit of a slow start,” Spinner said. “We’re not quite where we want to be yet, but we do know we have talent on the team. There’s a lot of new guys learning how to play together and once we get a little better chemistry I think we’ll be all right.”
McGee, a freshman from North Side High in Fort Wayne, Ind., has been more than a capable replacement for the injured Deanes.
“He might be the best freshman that we’ve ever brought in,” Spinner said. “He’s more mature than his age and there’s not too many freshmen that come in ready for college basketball.”
Jackson does a little bit of everything for the Lynx and is expected to provide scoring, rebounding and defense and also is one of the team’s top shooters.
“I think we’ll see him as a larger part of the offense,” Spinner said.
Spinner said it’s tough to believe this is already the sixth season for basketball at Lindenwood-Belleville.
“It’s wild,” he said. “We stopped explaining to recruits that we are a new program. That was kind of a change for us because we’d always talked to them about writing the record books and being part of something new. Now we feel like we’re an established program and they can see evidence of what they’re gettting into.”
There are no metro-east players on the current Lynx basketball roster. The closest to the area are senior guard Curran Walsh from Effingham and 6-7 senior Collin Mingo from Springfield Calvary.
Deanes, Walsh and Mingo were the only three returning players from the 2014-15 squad with nine college transfers added to the mix this season.
“We’ve shifted our focus to be a little more local and regional now that we have sustained the program a little bit,” Spinner said. “I think we’ll start to see more guys from around here coming to us. Initially we recruited a lot of transfers and now we’re shifting our focus toward freshman and more local.”
Spinner expects another dogfight in the AMC, especially after watching NAIA ninth-ranked Freed-Hardeman recently upset Division I Murray State. Columbia College is also ranked in the Top 20.
“The conference is probably as tough as it’s been since we joined,” said Spinner, whose team finished third in the conference last season.
Lindenwood-Belleville Men's Basketball Schedule
Oct. 23 - Southwest Christian W 95-86
Nov. 3 - Benedictine L 75-68
Nov. 6 - Indiana-Southeast L 101-100
Nov. 7 - Kentucky Christian W 91-64
Nov. 10 - Graceland L 83-80
Nov. 13 - Missouri Valley W 82-79
Nov. 19 - at Williams Baptist, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 21 - at Freed-Hardeman, 4 p.m.
Dec. 3 - St. Louis College of Pharmacy, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 5 - Missouri Baptist, 4 p.m.
Dec. 12 - at Benedictine, 4 p.m.
Dec. 17 - at Columbia, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 19 - Harris-Stowe State, 4 p.m.
Jan. 2 - Hannibal-LaGrange, 4 p.m.
Jan. 5 - William Woods, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 9 - Park, 4 p.m.
Jan. 14 - at Lyon, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 16 - at Central Baptist, 4 p.m.
Jan. 21 - Williams Baptist, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 23 - Freed-Hardeman, 4 p.m.
Jan. 28 - at St. Louis College of Pharmacy, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 30 - at Missouri Baptist, 4 p.m.
Feb. 4 - Columbia, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 6 - at Harris-Stowe State, 4 p.m.
Feb. 13 - at Hannibal-LaGrange, 4 p.m.
Feb. 16 - at William Woods, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 20 - at Park, 4 p.m.
Feb. 25 - Lyon, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 27 - Central Baptist, 4 p.m.