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Men's Basketball Preview: Lions seek to improve

Talented transfer Wynne has Vanguard aiming to finish in GSAC's upper division.

October 23, 2012|By Barry Faulkner

After halting a string of three straight losing seasons with a 15-15 campaign, it is perhaps fitting that the last name of the most heralded addition to the Vanguard University men's basketball roster is synonymous with third-year coach Rhett Soliday's ultimate goal.

"Our most talented overall player is Preston Wynne," said Soliday, who lost six seniors and returns only 24.2% of his scoring from last season, in which the Lions broke even overall, but finished 7-11 in the Golden State Athletic Conference.

Wynne, a 6-foot-1 junior transfer from Spokane Community College, was a two-time conference MVP for the Sasquatch, and also earned conference defensive player of the year laurels as a sophomore guard. At Spokane, Wynne, now 25, set school scoring records for a career (1,228), season (702) and game (44), and his 223 three-point field goals are also tops in school annals.

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Wynne averaged 23.3 points, five rebounds, 2.6 steals and almost two assists per game last season, and would have been at an NCAA Division I school had he not lost his NCAA eligibility, Soliday said.

"[Wynne] is a really, really good shooter with deep range and he is really athletic," said Soliday, for whom senior Taylor Kelly (10.8 points per game and a team-best 61 three-pointers last season) is the lone returning starter.

"[Wynne] has about a 40-inch vertical [leap], so he can run off screens and catch and elevate and stick it from deep. And though he's a little guy, he can put it through his legs and dunk it, too. He also really defends, with long arms and big hands, and he is strong. He's probably the most talented player we've had here since Horace Wormely [the GSAC Player of the Year] in 2006."

Soliday, who played and coached at 2012 NAIA champion Concordia, also noted that 2006 was the last time Vanguard competed in the NAIA Tournament. He said such an accomplishment is within reach this season.

"With the league changing [Azusa Pacific, Point Loma Nazarene and Fresno Pacific are now NCAA Division II programs, and Arizona Christian enters to make it an eight-school conference] it opens the door for someone to make a move," said Soliday, whose team was picked to finish fifth in the preseason coaches' poll. "If you finish in the top three in this conference, you are going to have a chance to go to the national tournament. It would be pretty cool to work toward getting that done, but there is a lot of work to do."

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