By Tim Glon
ADA — Ohio Northern posted 20 consecutive winning men's basketball seasons from 1990-2009.
But from 2010-16, the Polar Bears managed only one winning season and were just 92-93 in those seven years.
Second-year head coach Rich Bensman managed to change the culture of the program in his first year and guided ONU to a 16-10 record a year ago.
Northern played for the Ohio Athletic Conference Regular Season title on the last day of the season before falling at No. 9 Marietta to settle for second place and a solid 14-4 league record.
This season, the challenge facing Bensman and the Polar Bears is replacing four graduating seniors that accounted for 3,306 points, 1,241 rebounds, 744 assists and 352 made 3-pointers.
Despite being a much younger, less-experienced squad entering the season, Bensman returns 14 lettermen and is optimistic about many of his players that have been waiting for their turns in the spotlight.
"I'm very proud of the way our guys handled the change of culture in the program last year," he said. "The players, and especially the older guys, made the change and embraced what we were trying to do and it worked out well. This season, we need to replace a great deal of experience due to graduation.
"Many of our guys have been waiting for their turn to play. They have been working hard in practice and in the weight room and we are excited about what they will bring to the court this season."
Here is a breakdown of the 2017-18 Ohio Northern men's basketball team, by position:
Senior Nate Burger (Dayton/Alter) spent the past three seasons as the back-up point guardand is ready to quarterback the squad this winter.
A career 40 percent 3-point shooter (44-of-106), Burger is an offensive threat that is also a solid ball-handler with his career 1.3-1 assist-turnover ratio can attest.
Senior Joey DiOrio (Columbus/Watterson) started 14 games a year and has played in 72 games in his career.
He is a two-time Academic All-OAC honoree and ranks third all-time at ONU with a .464 3-point shooting percentage (85-of-183). He has scored in double figures 19 times and topped the 20-point mark in four games.
Sophomore Austin Allemeier (Elida) looks to hold down the starting spot at the other wing position after seeing action in 10 games as a freshman last year.
Freshman Ryan McClurg (Troy), junior Grant McConnell (Fremont/Ross), senior Brandon Hawkins (Apple Creek/Waynedale) and junior Joe Hadib (Westlake) will battle with freshman Kyle O'Donohue (Pickney, Mich.) for spots in the wing rotation.
The Polar Bears boast a wealth of talent in the post, led by Second Team All-Conference center Ryan Bruns (Chickasaw/Marion Local).
Bruns has played in 49 games with 35 starts in his first two seasons. He averaged 13.0 points and 7.5 rebounds per game with 66 blocked shots a year ago and is a dominating presence with his 6-8 frame in the post.
Senior Max Harnett (Kettering/Alter) has developed into a solid center and will likely serve as the backup this season, giving ONu a pair of 6-8 bodies down low.
Five Polar Bears return at the power forward position, making it easily the deepest position on the squad.
Junior Daniel Donner (Bellville/Northmor) has developed his game during the off-season and will likely be in the starting lineup as the season gets underway.
Senior Travis Feitshans (Arcanum/Franklin Monroe) started 10 games last season before a foot injury ended his 2016-17 season early and senior Academic All-OAC honoree Alex Sibila (Zionsville, Ind.) has played in 32 games with two starts in his career.
Sophomore Caleb Bryan (Pittsburgh, Pa./Montour) and senior Grant Pepper (Oakwood) will combine with freshmen newcomers Thomas Phillips (Kenton) and Alphonso White (Lebanon/Moeller) to provide tremendous depth in the paint.
"The two biggest concerns entering the season are to be better defensively and fill the void of shooters on the perimeter," Bensman said. "That said, I think we have a great group of young men that have been woring hard and waiting for their turn. We have talent and depth at all positions and we are excited to watch our guys develop and improve as the season goes on. Hopefully we can get another shot at the league title at the end of February."