Lyle commits to Milwaukee

Milwaukee Panthers head coach Rob Jeter received a commitment from Iowa Western CC guard JeVon Lyle on Wednesday afternoon.

Lyle, originally from Kansas City, spent a redshirt freshman year at UNI in Cedar Falls before transferring out due to a logjam at point guard and perhaps the strong manure odor outside the McLeod Center.

“JeVon is really fast, athletic, just a great athlete,” Iowa Western CC coach Jim Morris said. “He can really get up and down the floor and he has a great vertical game.”

A 6’2” guard, Lyle will have three years of eligibility and is likely to vie for time at the shooting guard spot with Jordan Aaron and Evan Richard, although he will likely be tasked with defending the opposing team’s best scoring guard, depending on who is on the floor for the Panthers.

PantherU just moved JeVon Lyle’s recruiting page from the Premium section to the Recruiting section so everyone may view it.

He is described by coaches who recruited him in high school as lightning fast, an excellent defender and a slasher on the offensive end. Lyle’s pickup continues the trend in Milwaukee’s recruiting for the 2013 class to emphasize size and defense, as Lyle is roughly the same size as Kaylon Williams and defensively akin to a faster Ryan Allen.

Lyle’s commitment is the sixth for the 2013 class. He joins Steve McWhorter, Cody Wichmann, Brett Prahl, Alex Prahl, and Matt Tiby in a Panther uniform for the first time.

Milwaukee remains hot on the heels of top target Deshawn Delaney, who is scheduled to be on campus this weekend after spending last weekend at Bradley.

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Downtown needs to become reality, immediately

In any other year, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee could step back, look at the fan reaction to the move to the Klotsche Center, run their numbers, smell the roses, and make a decision on where to play in the next few months. After all, it was June last year when athletic director Andy Geiger made the decision to move games on campus. So in any other year, there would be time.

In 2013, time is a factor – and a big one. The Missouri Valley Conference and the Atlantic 10 Conference are two leagues reeling from body blows sustained from the Big East sucker punch. The MVC lost Creighton – its big budget, big name, big attendance, Jesuit anchor in Omaha – to the Big East. The A10’s losses are worse, and they’re going to go further than that – Xavier has been the most constant presence for over a decade, and Butler barely knew them – but they’re both on their way to the Big East. Saint Louis and Dayton will follow them next year.

With its midwest presence all but gone, the A10 is likely to go back to its old glory as an east coast anchor – its move to add George Mason is proof of that – so they aren’t really an option for Milwaukee.

The MVC is an option, and it’s the best option. Some may ask, is it prudent? Does it really matter to be in the MVC over the Horizon League? The answer is yes. The unfortunate truth in college basketball is that programs are judged not by regular season championships or by big wins in the regular season, but by their performance in the postseason’s NCAA Tournament. The Missouri Valley has been a constant performer in the tournament – SIU, UNI, Wichita State and Bradley all have picked up recognition with success in the Big Dance – and the conference will continue to be when Creighton leaves.

The Horizon League Champion, post-Butler, can expect a 13-15 seed from here on out. The Selection Committee has shown that they have no respect for schools like Wright State, Cleveland State, Valparaiso and Detroit when it comes to seeding in the NCAA Tournament. Seeding is everything – the difference in victories between 12-seeds and 13-seeds is staggering. The Missouri Valley Conference sends teams to the dance at-large – not winning the conference tournament – and it sends them in seeds that have great shots to win when they get there. The fan bases are bigger, the history is better, and it’s a conference that is insulated from further poaching – there are no schools leaving the MVC. The television deal is significantly better than the Horizon League despite the fact that Horizon television markets are much, much larger – it has a lot to do with the fact that MVC schools own their markets, whereas Horizon schools are living in somebody else’s backyard. Would you rather play the conference title game on Tuesday nights on the ESPN family of networks against the Summit League and OVC, or would you rather play the conference title game on CBS by itself on Selection Sunday?

What we’re essentially talking about here is marketing. College athletics, for better or worse, are the best marketing for a university. FGCU is finding out that success in the Big Dance is a huge boon for applications. Butler received an estimated $600 milliion in free marketing for its 2010 Final Four appearance alone. You can see it at Milwaukee, too – my freshman class in the fall of 2005 was the last that made its decision where to go before the Sweet 16, and that year there were 26,000 students and a 92% selectivity rate. Move a couple years down the road, and Milwaukee had dropped selectivity to 65% and enrollment up beyond 30,000, and this is before Innovation Park, the School of Freshwater Sciences or the School of Public Health. Simply put, basketball puts your school on the map. Look at all the ads this weekend for universities in the Big Dance – that’s in front of a television audience you can’t buy.

With men’s basketball as the only revenue sport on campus – and by extension the only one with the capability of playing in front of millions in a television audience – the university needs to make sure that the team prospers. Making a move to the MVC would be insurance for a team in case it is NCAA Tournament-caliber but loses in its conference tournmament.

The 8-24 season was tough, but teams turn it around all the time. What was far more damaging to our conference expansion resume was the move from an 11,000-seat basketball arena downtown with the best history in the state to a 3,000-seat multi-purpose gym that was built in the 1970’s and even then wasn’t meant to hold a Division I basketball program. We have gone from the home of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson to the home of Olivier de Smedt. If you don’t know who that is, there’s your sign.

Let’s not forget that a move downtown would be in keeping with the university’s moves in expansion. Innovation Park, SFS and SPH are joining Continuing Ed in stretching the footprint of the campus. Isn’t it only fitting that the basketball team, wearing Milwaukee on its chest, embody that own-the-city expansion?

The timing, surprisingly, is perfect. Instead of spending upwards of $60 million building an arena that will only bring us to our peers in the Horizon League, why don’t we spend $5 million and buy 14 years of naming rights to rename the U.S. Cellular Arena the Milwaukee Arena? That’s the original name of the building, where the Bucks and Marquette won championships, where Doctor J ended his career, where the Beatles and the Rolling Stones rocked the crowd. It’s where 44,000 people come each year to see UWM’s graduating class. And seriously, is there any better billboard than this:

The great part about it is that it’s much earlier than an on-campus arena, you set yourself up for membership in the MVC, and you can divert money to my ideas of a $35 million practice facility and the Alumni House as a dorm, with only 49% or smaller percentage coming from the basketball team. That solves our facilities problems for the long-term while jumping our program to the national level.

But it has to be done now. The A10 has already made some moves, and the MVC is most definitely looking to follow. A sense of urgency is required, or else we’re stuck in the Horizon League.

Speaking of the Horizon League, did it occur to anyone that the Commissioner was not at Amanda Braun’s introduction? Come to think of it, he wasn’t at George Koonce’s or Rick Costello’s introductions either. He was there for Andy Geiger’s introduction – after all, he recommended Geiger to Lovell. And Geiger recommended moving to the Klotsche Center, which severely hampered the possibility of Milwaukee leaving the Horizon League for a better conference. I wonder who stands to gain from Milwaukee staying in the Horizon League.

Our fortunes are reversible, but the expiration date is coming quickly. This university can’t afford to wait a month for Amanda Braun to show up, although she most certainly would sign off on a move to the MVC and a move downtown to the Arena, which could be called the Milwaukee Arena as soon as summer 2014, when the Wisconsin Center District’s deal with U.S. Cellular expires. The dirty little secret is that the university only lost about $30,000 last year by playing in the Cell. A full MVC schedule would be a huge boon for attendance, enough that we might actually make money playing downtown.

The best part about this idea is that it’s reversible. If we decide to play games on campus in a new arena or renovated Klotsche in the future, we can still make that move. If we build, we’ll never go back downtown because of the tens of millions poured into a facility that needs men’s basketball as a tenant in perpetuity to justify its existence.

Let’s hope that Chancellor Lovell makes the right call in this situation. The future of the program is at stake today, not tomorrow.

Delaney could be huge

Milwaukee has been looking for a game changer, and according to sources, it looks like they’ve found their man. PantherU has confirmed that a big piece of the puzzle could be bringing his talents to Bradford Beach this summer, as Vincennes CC sophomore Deshawn Delaney has an offer from Milwaukee among others. We’re told that Milwaukee has made Delaney one of their top priorities in the spring recruiting season.

Delaney, originally from Carver Military Academy in Chicago, played this season at Vincennes, leading the Trailblazers along with Darius Carter Jr. to a fourth-place finish at the NJCAA National Championship Tournament this month. Delaney scored 15.8 ppg, pulled down 8.1 rpg, dished out 2.4 apg, blocked 62 shots and shot 51.4% from the field in 2012-13. In his final game at the NJCAA Final Four, Delaney scored 23 points and was 10-14 from the field.

Delaney is, as one observer has said, “The Truth.” PantherU can only assume this means he and Milwaukee Basketball are the perfect match, as the Panthers are looking for a star that fits Delaney’s description. He plays the three, but is versatile enough that he can play multiple positions – a shooting guard in a big lineup or even an undersized power forward when the Panthers want to begin running the floor with a smaller lineup a la Florida Gulf Coast.

Delaney is a three who can play multiple positions on the floor. He is a pure scorer, putting up big numbers with ease. He has an outstanding vertical game that allows him to drop slams, get blocks and pull down a ton of rebounds for a player of his size. He is particularly adept at altering his shot following contact.
The fact that Steve McWhorter, who utterly dominated other point guards in practice this season, is coming off his automatic transfer redshirt should help the Panthers in recruiting Delaney – we’ve been told that the Panthers very well could have the makings of an all-star backcourt with Delaney, McWhorter, and Trinson White running the show for the next two seasons, and the Panthers would not be done with the 2013 class at that – more firepower could be joining an already stacked 2013 class.
Life is definitely looking good in Milwaukee if they can get Delaney to commit; the incoming class would allow Jordan “Jay-O” Aaron and a healthy Thierno “Bobo” Niang to take complementary roles – Bobo could become a full-time backup point guard, and Jordan Aaron could move to a more natural shooting guard role.

Add in the further development of JJ Panoske – who really bloomed once he moved into the top of the rotation – and Matthew Tiby, who is a bull in the china shop and a banger down low, and Milwaukee all of a sudden has the makings of a team built to win in 2013-14 and 2014-15 in a big way.

Want to discuss Deshawn Delaney? We just started a forum topic just for him.

Let FGCU teach you a lesson

As the seconds ticked away in Florida Gulf Coast’s victory over San Diego State yesterday evening, it started to look familiar. Cheerleaders, fans, players and coaches beside themselves with joy. One player on the side, popping out his jersey for the country to read “FGCU.” Another raising his arms, getting the fans to heap more praise on the team – which is impossible, because the crowd couldn’t get any louder. It looked a lot like March 19th, 2005, at the Wolstein Center in Cleveland. The cast of characters was different, the colors blue and green instead of black and gold – but the story was the same. Upstart program, never been on this stage before, shines in the face of adversity and breaks through to the Sweet 16. They’re immediate media darlings, and all is right with the world.

We saw what happened with us. We lost our coach to the realities of college basketball. We lost our players to graduation, and a huge chunk of the fan base when we couldn’t sustain the high level of play that brought them around in the first place.

Hopefully those things don’t happen to FGCU. Hopefully Wilson G. Bradshaw, the president of the university, understands what he has and invests in the future of the program that has just put his school front and center in a nation with thousands of four-year institutions. Hopefully the fans at FGCU realize that nights like tonight may become something of a habit if they don’t cut and run the moment the chips are down.

That’s what has happened here. People got tired of losing (or hell, not winning at the level they had gotten used to so quickly), so they’ve one by one abandoned the Milwaukee program that they cheered so hard for eight years ago. Of those who haven’t left, many also cheer for Marquette and Wisconsin – after all, they need someone to care about in the tournament. The university missed two golden opportunities in 2005 and 2006 to invest in the program by securing the facilities it should have gotten in the late 1980’s and we’re still waiting for today.

This university remains a sleeping giant, with the Big Ten-sized enrollment and the rapidly growing endowment and budget. It’s the anchor of the best neighborhood in a city that is bucking the trend of its midwestern neighbors and actually growing in size, due in part to the culture and business produced in large part by the university.

What’s it going to take to wake it up? Commitment. It’s not just commitment of the Chancellor, or the AD, or the basketball coach. It’s not just the commitment of fans like Jimmy Lemke or Michael Poll or David Nicholas. It’s going to take all of us – each and every one of us, working toward a common goal, united under one banner with one purpose – a better future for Milwaukee Athletics, and in turn the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Once upon a time, John Calipari did an interview for one of the season preview magazines when he was head coach at Memphis. He talked about how “it takes a village” to sustain success as a mid-major. We know that in his case, the statement is something of a joke because what it took at Memphis was a few bags of money and someone to take Derrick Rose’s ACT. But for the rest of us, the quote rings true.

It does take a village. Hundreds of people, working to bring the program up by its boot straps and set it on a course of sustained success. It’s not just the donor’s money, though we need a lot of it. It’s not just students showing up to games, but we need a lot of them. It’s not just Chancellor Lovell breaking out the checkbook and increasing the university’s stake in athletics to match the students’, but that would cure our ills. It’s going to take everyone to do their part.

We can’t wait for the new season – the moves have already begun. FCS juggernauts Georgia Southern and Appalachian State are moving up to FBS in the Sun Belt. George Mason is filling one of the holes blown into the Atlantic 10 by the Big East. More moves are coming; it’s almost a certainty that the Horizon League is going to lose a member or two to the Missouri Valley Conference or the Atlantic 10; it’s likely only a matter of time.

Side note: remember when Milwaukee was a much better candidate for MVC expansion a year ago than it is today? It wasn’t the 8-24 season but the move to the Klotsche Center (you know, the place that wasn’t built for D-I basketball games when it was opened in the 1970’s?) that knocked Milwaukee down the list. Who authorized the move to the Klotsche Center? Does that person and/or people have a vested interest in keeping the Panthers in the Horizon League? Ask yourself that.

I’m not going to stay on the sidelines anymore. As noted last month, I’m no longer letting my crazy fly all over the place. I’ve channeled it into a vision for Milwaukee Athletics that answers many of our burning questions in the present and the future.

That vision needs support, from a legitimate organizing body for Milwaukee’s fan base.

I can’t say much now, but keep an eye on BlackandGoldClub.com in the coming weeks.

Amanda Braun is new AD

Sources have confirmed to PantherU that Amanda Braun will be the next Director of Milwaukee Athletics. An announcement is forthcoming but as yet unscheduled, where Chancellor Mike Lovell and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Michael Laliberte will formally introduce Braun as the new AD. Smart money says that will be some time this week.

None of the sources knew of the terms for Braun’s deal, only that her likely start date will be in early May.

We at PantherU endorsed Paul Plinske from UW-Whitewater for the job, but we wholeheartedly support Amanda Braun as she takes the reigns of Milwaukee Athletics.

Different sources had told PantherU over the weekend that the university’s Open Forum feedback had been overwhelmingly in support of Plinske.

PantherU.com will be following this story as it develops throughout the day.

Vaulting Milwaukee basketball to new heights

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the past year, it is that money is catching up to the Milwaukee Panthers in a big way. Between the move from the U.S. Cellular Arena to the Klotsche Center and the growing $10 million debt, Milwaukee is suffering from a serious lack of cash. If only there were a way to change our lucky stars overnight.

There isn’t. You can’t take a couple million dollars down to Potowatomi Casino, bet it all on red and collect your cash when the little ball stops on the turning wheel. Well you could, but the state would probably frown upon that plan. And you’d probably anger your hosts at the casino by promptly walking out with their money. So that’s not really an option.

What is an option? What can Milwaukee Athletics do to break free of the chains that bind the program?

It seems the current plan is to build a basketball practice facility that will allow the men’s and women’s basketball programs their own space, a serious boon for recruiting that would cut away the biggest remaining advantage any Horizon League school has over the university. They could follow that up with a baseball and track facility, probably in the neighborhood of the former Rank and Son car dealership on Green Bay Avenue. After that, the Panthers can renovate the Klotsche Center in the style of Loyola’s Gentile Arena, hopefully with a bit more flair and a couple luxury boxes to boot.

But where does this plan leave Milwaukee once it’s all said and done? What is it about this plan that elevates Milwaukee Athletics? At the end of the day, you’re talking about tens of millions of dollars down the hole to bring us up to the level of our peers.

A practice facility – the first because it’s likely to be the cheapest project and one to deliver better basketball results faster – is still going to cost in the range of $6 million to $12 million just to make it the level of Wright State’s Setzer Pavilion or Green Bay’s Kress Center. A baseball stadium looks great, but it’s going to take $10 million to build something that can compete with UIC’s just-announced Granderson Stadium. The indoor track and field facility will be great for practicing in inclement weather, but that’s just on par with Youngstown State’s WATTS Center. And that Loyola-style renovation of the Klotsche Center, where you drop the floor and create a permanent bowl? That’s good for Loyola, but what about Milwaukee? And how much would that cost?

Conservative estimates have such a renovation costing $30 million. Essentially, you’re talking about projects in excess of $50 million to make the Milwaukee Panthers the class of the Horizon League. Let me tell you something: we already are. The trophy cases full of McCafferty Trophies and Horizon League Championships numbering 115 and counting are all the proof we should need to know that we’re the best. Spending that much money on those projects will definitely vault Milwaukee to the front of the conference; our neighborhood, our city, our coeds, our academics, our size, all put together make this university the class of the conference, and fixing our facilities problem cuts away the last of the great advantages any of those schools have on us.

But the NCAA is a world of haves and have-nots, and if we’re going to spend $50 million, what good does it do to get to the finish line only to find out we don’t have the kind of facilities that will secure the best rosters? There’s nothing wrong with being the class of the Horizon League, in and of itself. Butler did just fine in that role and a nationally-prominent men’s basketball program is viable in the Horizon League. But you don’t become a nationally-prominent men’s basketball program with a $10 million practice facility and a $30 million base renovation of current space.

If it’s done correctly, the Milwaukee Panthers can join the ranks of the nationally-prominent men’s basketball programs by spending that $50 million (or less!) more wisely. It’s not an easy job – the money has to be raised, after all – but the benefits would be much greater than they’d be with the current, pedestrian plans.

Not just a gym, but the best gym. The first and most important piece of the puzzle is a basketball practice facility, to be used only by the men’s and women’s varsity basketball programs. You might say, “But Jimmy, a practice facility is probably the first part of the university’s current plan LOL!” It sure is. But the scope of the project is likely to be minimal; what’s important to them is to make sure there is some space for the basketball teams to be separate from the Klotsche Arena, where they can train and recruit players to a facility on par with the rest of the Horizon League.

That’s not good enough. One of these facilities has to make a statement. Whether you’re talking about the practice facility or the basketball arena, the university has to make a statement that says “Not only are we committed to basketball, but we’re more committed than any school you will visit.” Between the two, I’ll pick the practice facility. Why? Because the current gold standard for a college basketball arena is $230 million. The best college basketball practice facility in the country is at Kentucky, and it was built in 2007 for $30 million ($33.1 million in 2012 dollars).

Is it starting to make sense? For Milwaukee Athletics to be viable in the future, it must be able to make money. It cannot, in its current state, make enough money to be profitable today, let alone ten years down the road. What you need is a winning program. A wildly winning program. To achieve the level of winner that fans will buy into – remember, we’re competing with the Bucks and Marquette for the entertainment dollar – you need better players. Today, better players will not practice and play in the Klotsche Center. Yesterday, better players would not practice in the Klotsche Center and play in the Cell. The constant is the practice facility – this much the university has identified – but it lacks the vision to see ten years down the road.

Owning a practice facility on par with those at Loyola, UIC, Green Bay and Wright State does nothing to elevate the program. Building a practice facility that far outpaces those, and competes with the best in the nation, is better. $35 million buys you the best practice facility that money can buy. $35 million makes Wisconsin and Marquette green with envy. The great part about those schools is that neither has a need for a basketball practice facility – MU has the Al McGuire Center and Bucky Badger just freed up the Kohl Center from ice hockey practice. We’re talking about the kind of facility that John Calipari and Kentucky look at and say, “This school is planning to compete with us in at least one arena.”

Building the best practice facility in the country is expensive and it seems like a project that doesn’t fit at the hyphenated little sister to Wisconsin. And that’s the point. This project makes the university step out of Wisconsin’s shadow, stretch its legs and stand on its own two feet.

By coming late to the party, the usual suspects of the nation’s basketball elite have already played their hand. Kentucky’s $30 million Joe Craft Center is the gold standard; just because Milwaukee built something better doesn’t mean they’re going to tear it down and start over. It’s almost a good thing we’re one of the last schools in the country to have a space problem with facilities.

So what kind of space are we talking here? What goes into a super-facility, besides the obvious gym, locker rooms, training rooms and weight rooms? Of those, you can assume you’ll get the best of everything. But there’s more.

First off, the coaches’ offices will be some of the best in the country. Envision a posh space overlooking the basketball courts, each fitted with a sitting area to recruit student-athletes and teach players. Recruiting rooms allow coaches to have a specific space tailored to wooing prospective student-athletes to Milwaukee.

The best academic space money can buy, there to ensure the men and women who suit up for the Milwaukee Panthers are given the tools to expand their minds and broaden their horizons, would probably be accessible to all student-athletes, not just basketball players.

Another addition for the entire athletics program would be a permanent home for the Bud K. Haidet Hall of Fame. Line the McCafferty Trophies up along one wall. The 115 Horizon League Championship trophies would probably be served best as wallpaper – a single-file line is going to get too unruly. But a special section – ideally an adjacent room – would be dedicated to the 120-year history of Milwaukee hoops. Picture in your minds the framed photos – the 1941 undefeated team, the 1960 NCAA Tournament team, the 1989 Elite Eight team – there’s more history here than we take credit for, even if it’s not all in Division I. It’s important that this room is big enough to be changed whenever a team adds to the history, especially when considering the fact that the room’s existence is indicative of a recruiting juggernaut.

It’s not just student-athletes and coaches that would get to reap the rewards, though. At Duke, their practice facility contains a space for the university to entertain up to 240 guests. That space would also be used for players to dine for team meals.

It could also be a place that makes money. Not only is the banquet hall something that could be rented out, but the practice facility itself could find a way to make money for the program: the Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks have long been rumored to want out of the Cousins Center along the south shore, mainly because the facility is not up to par with others in the NBA. The Dallas Mavericks thought so too; they were practicing at home in their game arena, when a tour of SMU’s new Crum Practice Facility caused them to move all their practices to the private school’s campus. SMU makes money on rent from the Mavericks; the Bucks could also find themselves a home at Milwaukee’s new facility.

Having a place where basketball players can swipe their key-card and enter at any time of the day to work on their game or their schoolwork is a basic need that has gone unfulfilled – I once had a Facebook conversation at two in the morning over the summer with a former player who wished he could just go and practice his shot. I don’t think any of us would complain if they could do that. But it’s more than just having a space, it’s about having a space that will ensure the players who are using those key-cards are the best possible players this university can attract, make the team better, bring in more fans, more money, and the snowball keeps rolling and growing.

One day, perhaps not long after the facility is built, another school will come along and knock Milwaukee’s off its pedestal. But it will be a long time, maybe never, before the facility becomes just-another-gym. By then, the message will be heard loud and clear by every gym rat in the country: Milwaukee has arrived.

Not just a home, but the best home. Milwaukee students have long taken pride in the fact that certain players from the basketball team have lived among them in the dorms – legends of Rob Sanders and his fur coat come to mind – but if we are to enhance our ability to recruit the best players in the country, we can do better than the best practice facility in the country.

The practice facility is the biggest, most expensive and most important piece, but there are other parts to this jigsaw puzzle. One of them is establishing a beautiful home for students, including the roster of the basketball programs, to live.

At the University of Kentucky, men’s basketball players have long lived sequestered from the rest of the student body at the Joe B. Hall Lodge, which was a great home for hoops athletes. I say “was” because this past fall, Wildcats players moved into a brand new building on the same spot: the Kentucky Coal Lodge. Take a break from reading and feast your eyes on this video of the brand new home.

Of course, buying and maintaining a house that is big enough to be the home of the entire men’s basketball program – and other students – would probably cost somewhere around $10 million just to buy the land and build the base structure.

Unless it already exists.

Enter the Alumni House, the picturesque castle of a home east of Lake Drive, right off of Lincoln Memorial Drive. It was bought in 1949 by the Milwaukee State Teachers College for the steep cost of $80,000. It seems like a ridiculous suggestion to house the men’s basketball program, until you learn that the Alumni House was initially a women’s dormitory for the College. For 15 years it house female students, until 1964 when it was converted to a conference center. Not long after that, the much bigger dormitory at the Hefter Center became a conference center when Sandburg Towers were built, and the Alumni House eventually became the home of the UWM Foundation and the Alumni Association.

It was in this function that the Alumni House became a daily destination for me. I did my required internship for the English Department at the Alumni Association, in the south wing of the second floor. I’m not going to lie, it was a pretty spectacular view for a 23-year old intern. The internet may have lagged behind and the parking might not have been ideal (I didn’t get a parking pass in the – get this – 15 or so parking spaces), but it was without a doubt the coolest building I ever worked in – and it would be an amazingly good home for Milwaukee Basketball.

It wouldn’t be quite the space that the Kentucky Coal Lodge is, but that’s okay – there is more than ample space for the basketball team and even general students to live in comfort. There are bedrooms and bathrooms on the second and third levels to accommodate even the tallest of tenants. The pantry and kitchen are big enough for a chef to have all the space they need to feed 20 students at various times during the day. The back patio has great views through the trees of Lake Michigan, the dining room is high class, and the living areas are big enough for an entire team of seven-footers to spread out.

No doubt, it would need some updating – I’m fairly certain the carpeting hasn’t been updated since the 1980’s and they’re going to need to settle that wifi problem – but it’s an outstanding home. It sits on 3.9 acres of land, much of which is a depressed lawn that used to be a swimming pool, which was filled with the dirt they picked out of the ground when excavating for Mellencamp Hall. If they wanted, they could put a basketball court out on that space (it’s big enough). A university-controlled dorm that wouldn’t be open to partying, it would give players a place to kick back and enjoy creature comforts without making it a place the neighbors would complain about.

Neither of these projects is a money maker in their own space. We’ll never make enough money from the general student population that lives in the other space of the Alumni House to cover costs. We’ll never draw thousands of people to watch the basketball team practice in the new facility, even if it is the best in the country.

But putting these projects does one thing – it vaults Milwaukee Basketball beyond the Horizon League and up with the national elite in the eyes of recruits. Fans have complained about the concessions, the merchandise booth and the D-III atmosphere of the Klotsche Center, but what really hurts recruiting is the perception that the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is not committed to its basketball program. Schools recruiting against Milwaukee have been hammering us to recruits about the Klotsche Center for years, and that criticism has only ramped up since the Panthers moved their home games to campus.

If we come through on these two projects, is anyone ever going to question our commitment to basketball again? Recruits won’t. They’ll see the best place to practice in the country and the most beautiful home for a basketball team and they’ll want to be a part of it. It won’t matter if we still pay the same gouging rent at the Cell, because the level of the team will draw enough fans to easily cover the costs of the Cell lease and then some.

Sure, we can spend $50 million and build a run-of-the-mill practice facility and a Loyola-style renovation of the Klotsche Center, but that will leave us right where we are – consistently one of the best basketball teams in the Horizon League, the best overall athletics program in the conference, and still losing money. For $10 million less, they can completely transform how the university, city, recruits and country view Milwaukee Basketball.

How’s that for a strategic plan?

Panthers catch heat, light up Ramblers

At one point in the second half the Klotsche Krazies, not happy with a call, started chanting “Take his whistle” at one of the referees. Had they known the result, they might have not been so hasty to jump on the officiating.

Milwaukee rode an 18-for-23 second half foul shooting spree to an eighteen-point victory over the Loyola Ramblers, 71-53.

Paris Gulley led the charge, shooting 13-for-16 from the charity stripe in the game and scoring 21 despite the Panthers’ shooting guard going a cold 0-for-5 from beyond the arc.

“Man it feels good to get the win,” head coach Rob Jeter said after the game.

It had been quite the stretch for Milwaukee, who hasn’t won since a January home game against Cleveland State. They weren’t going to let the sins of the second half betray them again.

“We just made sure that in the second half, we got the quality shots we wanted, got the ball in the post and tried to draw fouls and get to the line,” Jeter said after. It wasn’t just an offensive philosophy that worked for the Panthers.

JJ Panoske knocked seven shots off their course tonight, a school record in only his freshman season.

“He did a great job of helping out teammates. He may have had seven blocks, but he had about 12 or 13 altered shots,” Ryan Haggerty said after the game.

Milwaukee also got a big game out of Austin Arians, who had a big stretch where he slammed home two crowd-pleasing dunks and hit a big three to keep Loyola at arm’s length.

The first half wasn’t quite the offensive show for Milwaukee.

“We tried to be aggressive with attacking the press. We tried to see the floor and see the 45-degree angles. Sometimes we took some bad angles and created some turnovers, but overall I was pleased,” coach Jeter said of the team’s offense in the first half, when Loyola came out and started pressing immediately. “We’re going to have to prove that we can beat the press if we’re going to win some more games the rest of the way.”

Still, a 49-point second half was the deciding factor for Milwaukee, who improved to 2-10 in Horizon League play with only four games remaining. They return to play Friday night against Youngstown State, who beat them by three in Milwaukee last month.

How did the Panthers do so well in the second half? For one, they didn’t force three-pointers. In fact, they forced themselves to get the ball down low often in the second stanza, only taking six of their 22 shots beyond the arc after the break.