MOUNT PLEASANT —
Head Coach Ernie Zeigler
's fifth season at the helm of the Central Michigan men's basketball program was one of new beginnings.
The Chippewas entered the season with eight freshmen and two additional newcomers to the roster, which was composed of no-four-year players, just two players in their third year with the program and five second-year players. As a result, CMU was one of the least experienced teams in the country, having just eight years of Division I experience.
The 2010-11 season embarked the opening of the renovated CMU Events Center and McGuirk Arena. The Chippewas opened the arena on December 1 in front of a sellout crowd of 5,305 and earned their first home victory on Dec. 22 against Cornsterone.
"The opening of McGuirk Arena and our CMU Events Center is a huge plus for us in terms of facilities," head coach Ernie Zeigler said. "The arena as well as our new Dick Parfitt Practice Gymnasium will be key to our future."
Another key to the future of the Maroon and Gold is Trey Zeigler , a bright spot for the Chippewas this season who became CMU's all-time leading freshman scorer. Tallying 506 points on the year and averaging 16.3 points per game, the second-highest among all Division I freshmen, Zeigler earned nods to the MAC All-Freshmen Team, All-MAC Honorable Mention Team and Mid-Major Freshmen All-America Team.
Zeigler helped lead the squad to a win in the first MAC game in McGuirk, becoming the first freshman to score 30 points since 1998, in a 65-52 win over Toledo on Jan. 12.
After earning back-to-back Mid-American Conference West division titles the previous two seasons, the Chippewas finished just 10-21 during the 2010-11 campaign and third in the MAC West with a record of 7-9.
The Maroon and Gold earned just three wins in the team's first 13 games, getting a buzzer-beater three from senior Jalin Thomas to take a 70-67 win over Cal State Fullerton in the season opener then winning on the road at Illinois-Chicago, 62-52.
Head coach Ernie Zeigler became just the third coach in program history to earn double-digit wins in five straight seasons (Dick Parfitt, 1972-84; Charlie Coles, 1986-92) and recorded his 64th career victory to move into seventh place on CMU's career wins list.
"Everyone in our program was disappointed with the way the season went," Zeigler said. "I know we had our own expectations of having a winning season and a lot of things come into play with that in how much you can win, and we fell on the other side of the pendulum."
Thomas became the program's fourth Academic All-America selection later in the season, earning second-team honors after being named to The CoSIDA/Capitol One Academic All-District First Team. The senior ended the season as the team's second-leading scorer, averaging 15.9 points while earning All-MAC honorable mention honors.
"Jalin evolved into a new role and became one of our go-to guys," head coach Ernie Zeigler said. "This senior group was a group that was extremely tough and really gave every ounce of their ability and Jalin truly embodied 'Think Tough, Be Tough."
The Chippewas will lose seniors Thomas, William McClure , the team's leading rebounder (6.0) and shot blocker (1.2), and Antonio Weary , who started 17 contest during the season and provided toughness on the defensive end.
They return, however, a backcourt in sophomore John Morris and freshmen Derek Jackson and Zeigler who combined to start 52 games. Jackson, who emerged as a solid third scoring option late in the season, proved one of the league's most prominent defensive threats as he finished seventh in the MAC, and first among all rookies, with 1.61 steals per game.
"Derek really started to evolve throughout the season and the Ohio game was one he really started to get into his comfort level," Zeigler said. "We had some guys start to step up, especially our young nucleus we are building our team around."
Also returning is a front court that should continue to gain experience and provide assistance with the core group of guards in Zeigler, Jackson and Morris who gained experience during the 2010-11 season.
Junior Andre Coimbra , who led the team in field goal percentage (50.4 percent), returns for his second and final season at CMU, as do freshmen Colin Voss and Nate VanArendonk , who took a medical redshirt due to mononucleosis. Zach Saylor returns for his fourth year with the program to provide pivotal leadership from a shoulder injury that forced him to sit out the 2010-11 campaign.
"We have a great nucleus of young kids and I am really excited about them," Zeigler said. "Evolving that nucleus is big for us and the other key is going out and getting the right pieces to the puzzle, because in order for us to take the next step we have to continue to get better."