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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Ashland University

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Ashland University

The Collegian

AU men’s basketball guard Simon Wheeler looks to lead Eagles through adversity

On the 2023-24 season, Wheeler is averaging 15.8 points, 5 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 1.7 steals per contest
Ben Nichols
Simon Wheeler drives to the hoop against the Trevecca Nazarene Trojans inside of Kates Gymnasium back on Jan. 18.

The Ashland University men’s basketball team has been hit with a wave of adversity in the 2023-24 campaign. Whether it is illness or injury, the team has had to adapt to changes and unforeseen circumstances in order to find success.

Through the adversity, the team has looked to star sophomore guard Simon Wheeler to be the catalyst on the court and in the locker room. Heading into the back half of the season, the Eagles sit at an overall record of 12-5 while going 6-4 in Great Midwest Athletic Conference (G-MAC) play.

“My goals are still the same. I look forward to turning this season around and winning as many games as possible,” said Wheeler. “No matter how they come or how they have to happen my plan is to help this team into a deep post-season push.”

To kick off the year, the Eagles lost graduate guard Brandon Haraway for the season due to injury, and just months later the team was also hit with an injury to backup freshman guard Jordan Edwards. Alongside the two guards, recently, the Eagles suffered the temporary loss of forward Victor Searls, resulting in a total of three prominent players on the team going down within the course of a few months.

Searls, through 13 contests, had been averaging 15.5 points and seven rebounds a game.

“Obviously, [we’ve had] unfortunate situations from the start of the season and continuous until this day,” said Wheeler. “My confidence is the same and will be the same but also figuring out how to maintain and help the other guys who are fulfilling the roles of the injured guys.”

In replacement of Searls, forward Maceo Williams has been thrust into the spotlight as the lead big-man down low in the paint. The connection between Williams and Wheeler was stagnant to start, but in recent contests has thrived.

Maceo Williams stands at the free throw line after drawing contact underneath the basket. (Ben Nichols)

Over the course of the last four games, Williams is now averaging 15 points and six rebounds a contest.

With the team adapting to these changes, they have had to dig deep to find a way past opponents.

Just weeks ago, the Eagles traveled to Findlay, to take on the Oilers in a rivalry contest. Without Searls, Haraway and Edwards, Wheeler came out swinging and dominated the Oilers’ defense.

After helping to keep the contest within reach in the first half of play, Wheeler would go on to light things up in the second half en route to a stellar 33 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.

“We have talked about being an enhancing leader [and] making others around you better,” said Assistant Coach Brook Turson at the halftime break of Wheeler’s 19-point first half against the Oilers. “Simon not only has made himself better but the team as well.”

His efforts would lead the team to a 94-86 win on the road and the program’s second away win against the Oilers since 2011.

On the 2023-24 season, Wheeler is now averaging 15.8 points, 5 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 1.7 steals per contest while shooting a consistent 43% from the field, 31% from beyond the arc and 76% from the charity stripe.

“They [the coaching staff] have done a great job allowing me and the team to flourish thus far throughout the season,” said Wheeler.

Prior to the 2023-24 campaign, his freshman season was highlighted by a Freshman of the Year honor from the G-MAC, while also helping guide his team to a conference championship win.

In hopes of similar individual and team success, Wheeler will certainly have to rely on the pieces around him to get the job done as the team looks to climb to the top of the conference table.

“Being down guys makes me have to pick up play even more with other teams also knowing we are down players they are throwing more and more different looks at us defensively going into the back half of the season,” said Wheeler. “I am learning how to adjust to the new looks while also keeping others involved.”

Wheeler sits on the court prior to a contest beginning inside of Kates Gymnasium. (Ben Nichols)
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