August 7, 2012 in Division III
During the season, Kalamazoo College guards Mark and Carl Ghafari aren’t going to be matched up against any players as talented as Michigan State‘s Keith Appling, Travis Trice or Gary Harris or professional players like Thomas Kelley. But it doesn’t hurt that they’ve spent their summer playing against those guys in the Moneyball Pro-Am in Lansing.
The Ghafari brothers were among 12 Kalamazoo players who played together on the Orange Team, along with Michigan State’s Brandan Kearney and Alex Gauna, in this summers pro-am. Although the experience didn’t lead to any wins — the Orange Team, somewhat predictably, went winless against the other rosters that were loaded with Division I players and professional players — it did give the Kalamazoo players the chance to bond and perform against top notch competition.
“We got to play together, learn each other’s styles,” Mark Ghafari said. “Some of the incoming freshman, we got to play with the for the first time. It also helps with their learning curve, going from high school to college competition.”
“We got to work on screen and roll and see play-wise some things we were good at running heading into the season,” Carl Ghafari said.
Gaining that familiarity is even more important because Kalamazoo doesn’t have a coach right now. Former coach Rob Passage stepped down in June to take an administrative position in Oregon. Kalamazoo is nearing a decision on the replacement for Passage, who was also an assistant athletic director at the school, and the Ghafari’s are hoping the new coach has more time to devote to the program.
“He (Passage) had a lot of responsibilities, so it was kind of tough for him to fully commit to basketball and be there for us all the time,” Carl Ghafari said. “We just really want someone who is in the gym with us all the time and will help us get better and win games.”
Kalamazoo finished 8-17 last season. The team loses leading scorer Joe Propolec to graduation, but returns Mark Ghafari and Eric Fishman, who both averaged 12 points per game. Carter Goetz, who both started games for Kalamazoo last season, also return. Carl Ghafari, a freshman last season, scored 24 points in 23 games. Other Kalamazoo players who played at Moneyball are Keith Garber, Josh Haney, Cameron Lafayette, Jake Olds, Mike Oravetz, Aaron Schoenfeldt, Cameron Schwartz and Jared Weeks.
Carl Ghafari noted that having to play against more size than they are accustomed to in Moneyball should help the Kalamazoo players during the season, as it forced them to become better, craftier finishers around the basket.
“There won’t be any 6-9 or 6-10 guys in our league, so playing against them here helps us a lot,” he said.
Mark Ghafari thinks the experience as a whole should help the make the team better prepared for its season.
“It’s a really good experience here, especially for our guys,” he said. “We played against great competition, so we all get better from that. It’s fun being out there playing with guys who might play professionally some day or already are professionals. It’s just a really good experience and we all get better from it.”