UWSP men’s basketball team honors senior class Saturday, Feb. 13
The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UWSP) men’s
basketball team will honor its three seniors when it takes on UW-Eau Claire for
Senior Day at
Saturday, Feb. 13, at Bennett
Court at Quandt Fieldhouse.
Stephen Pelkofer, Sean McGann and Bill Patterson have all had
different roles over the last four seasons for the Pointers, and each has made
an impact on the program during their careers.
“It always shocks you in how fast this day comes,” said UWSP
men’s basketball head coach Bob Semling. “That’s the other part of the story we
tell the young guys is, ‘Senior Day is a reminder of how fast your career goes,
and how to really seize this opportunity.’
“But we’re not saying goodbye, we’re celebrating what
they’ve done for four years for us, and then the transition into the next
chapter in their lives and the fact that they’re going to continue to be close
to this program and stay connected,” he said.
McGann, a 6-4 guard/forward from Baraboo, and Patterson, a
6-6 center from Aslip, Ill., joined the Pointers as freshmen for the 2012-13
McGann averaged 3.1 points in 10.9 minutes per game off the
bench, while Patterson played a total of 15 minutes in 10 games, as UWSP won
the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) Title and finished
22-6 overall after it lost in the second round of the NCAA Division III
“I had only won conference once in high school, and I know
that Sean had never won conference in high school,” said Patterson. “When we
won conference my freshman year, we clinched it at Stout with a win in
overtime, and I just remember going up to Sean and celebrating, because we
haven’t had that feeling in a really long time.
“It was just so nice to finally celebrate that and actually
be a part of something successful,” he said.
“Coming off the bench my freshman year, I found my way onto
the court with my defense and just my effort,” said McGann. “We had some
injuries, and I ended up playing more and more down the stretch of the year, so
it was a really cool experience for me playing in a big playoff game, winning a
big playoff game our freshman year, and then just getting farther and farther
into the tournament.”
Pelkofer accepted a scholarship offer to play basketball at
NCAA Division II Northern Michigan University early in his senior year at Whitnall
High School, where in football he also led the state in receiving yards per
game as a junior as the top receiver for future UW quarterback Joel Stave and
finished among the leading receivers in the state his final two years.
Pelkofer earned a spot in the starting lineup for the men’s
basketball team at Northern Michigan as a freshman and averaged 7.6 points per
game, but decided to transfer to UWSP, where he was due to come off the bench
as a sophomore.
“Coming out of high school, I thought it was all about going
to a Division 1 or Division 2 program, and I found out that obviously it wasn’t
what I hoped it would be,” said Pelkofer. “Most guys transferring in from
Division 1 or Division 2 probably think that they just come in and start right
away, and I knew that that team was bringing pretty much everyone back.
“But I had found out what my priorities were, and that was
to win and be a part of something special, so that was OK with accepting a
lesser role,” he said. “I eventually earned a lot of time and played a big role
on that team, so it wasn’t a problem, it was tough initially, but I eventually
grew used to it and really embraced it.”
Pelkofer (3.6 points in 20.4 minutes per game) and McGann
(2.1 points in 11.3 minutes per game) were key reserves as sophomores in
2013-14 for the Pointers, who spent most of the season as the top-ranked team
in Division III, before they were upset by Emory (GA) 76-73 in overtime at home
in the Sweet 16 to finish 28-2 overall.
Last season as juniors, Pelkofer joined the starting lineup
and McGann served as the sixth man for the Pointers.
Pelkofer finished third on the team in scoring (11.6 points
per game), shot 45.2 percent from three-point range and led the team in
rebounds (4.4), while McGann averaged 6.6 points and four rebounds in 25.8
minutes per game, as UWSP won a share of its third consecutive WIAC Regular
Season Title and overcame a 3-2 start and an upset loss in the WIAC Tournament
Semifinals to finish 27-5 and win the program’s fourth NCAA Division III
“My sophomore year, after we lost in the Sweet 16, we were
the No. 1 team in the nation and kind of expected to go to Salem and compete for a National Title,” said
McGann. “After we lost that game to Emory, I was like, ‘I think I just missed
my best opportunity to maybe get a National Championship.’
“And then the next year we were in the same position and we
end up going all the way, and I didn’t expect it, and I think a lot of guys
really didn’t expect us to do that,” he said. “But winning the National Championship
and just being on that journey with that group of guys, we’ll forever have that
bond of being champions together.”
“That run is something I’ll never forget and something I
will cherish forever,” said Pelkofer. “ Just having that group of guys that
you’ve built relationships with on and off the court, and to have that same
goal all year, and to be able to accomplish that is really a unique experience
and something that I wish that every college athlete would be able to have.
“I don’t think anyone really thought that we could do
something that big, except for ourselves, and we kind of played with a chip on
our shoulder all year like that,” he said. “We started out 3-2 and nothing was
really clicking, people didn’t really know their roles, but we eventually just
molded into such a great team, and it was the most fun I’ve ever had in a
basketball season. Just because we were such a great team, and we really
embraced that ‘team’ concept and we weren’t individuals out there.”
During the Pointers’ run to the National Title, Pelkofer led
the team in scoring in NCAA Tournament wins over Emory (20 points) in the Sweet
16 and East Texas Baptist (11) in the Elite Eight, and then finished with 14
points and six rebounds in a 68-59 win over Virginia Wesleyan in the National
Semifinals and scored 14 points and went 4-of-7 from three-point range in a
70-54 win over Augustana (Ill.) in the National Championship Game, while McGann
averaged 5.7 points per game during the tournament run as the team’s top
With four senior starters gone from a year ago, Pelkofer,
McGann and Patterson looked to take on increased roles as they entered their
senior seasons at UWSP this fall.
After playing a total of 25 minutes in 15 games off the
bench as a sophomore in 2013-14, Patterson suffered a knee injury that forced
him to miss all of last season as a junior.
Before the start of this season, he reinjured his knee and
has not played this season, while he has continued his role as a vocal leader in
practice and on the bench in games.
“Billy wasn’t one of those guys that could come in and play
right away (as a freshman and sophomore), he needed time because he wasn’t
quite big enough to play inside, but he just improved the competitiveness and
toughness in practice,” said Semling. “His last two years he’s been hurt with
that knee injury, so we’ll never know if Billy actually could’ve taken that
next step where he could’ve actually got some minutes for us.
“But that has never changed how he comes to practice and how
he helps us in games, he’s really become a coach on the floor in practice, and
he’s been the heart and soul of our team when it comes to leadership and spirit
and enthusiasm, both in practice and in games,” he said. “His leadership skills
have really been among some of the best we’ve had come through here.”
“The last two seasons have been tough, wanting to play and
finally getting older and being able to maybe get a chance,” said Patterson.
“But these guys are my team, they’re my family, I wouldn’t leave them, whether
hurt, healthy. No matter what, I wasn’t going to leave them behind.
“Last year, it was hard when I went down in December, but
the success and being able to back those guys and do whatever I can to help
them succeed, I mean it made it so much easier to stick around,” he said. “And
then this year, hoping to come back and make a run in my senior year, it’s been
tough, but Stephen and Sean have done a great job leading us this year.”
Pelkofer was named a Preseason All-American by D3hoops.com
entering this season and is averaging 14 points, four rebounds and 3.3 assists
per game for UWSP.
Meanwhile, McGann leads the team with 14.7 points and 4.5
rebounds as the Pointers are 12-10 overall and 5-6 in the conference heading
into the final week-and-a-half of the regular season, after they went a
combined 77-13 and won three consecutive WIAC Titles the previous three
“Obviously this hasn’t been what we thought it would be this
year record-wise, but we’re not giving up on being able to do something
special,” said Pelkofer. “And we’ve proven that we can beat any team in the
conference, either at home or on the road.
“So our main thing is, we just want to finish out
game-by-game and get into the WIAC Tournament, and I think we all realize that
anything can happen in there,” he said. “We can still accomplish something and
make something out of this year.”
“Stephen was really significant in those six (NCAA
Tournament) games, he was peaking and playing his best overall in his junior
year at the end of the season, just like all of our guys,” said Semling. “He played
so well in Salem, and people got to see him on the national stage, and I think the
biggest adjustment for Stephen (early this season) is having to go into every
game knowing that he had to score, and knowing that people were targeting him
and he was seeing everybody’s best defender and being double-teamed a lot. And
so that was different for him, after playing on a team with four seniors and
all four of them could score, but he got through that transition period, and
he’s been really solid and consistently good.
“And Sean was an energy guy off the bench, offensive
rebounds, make hustle plays on defense and on the boards, and that’s what he
did for three years,” he said. “And this year he made himself into a scorer,
and he did it the old-fashioned way: he’s scrappy, he’s tough, he’s blue
collar, and his mid-range jump shot has really become a weapon for him.”
Patterson is still hoping to be able to return to the court
this season, while he will not seek a medical hardship to gain another season
of eligibility, as he plans to spend the next school year volunteering in the
Stevens Point area, before he enters medical school.
“He’s a pre-med student, so he’s got all kind of challenges
off the floor academically,” said Semling. “And even though he’s not playing,
he’s never missed a meeting, he’s never missed a practice, and it’s just
amazing to see his commitment to Pointer basketball.
“And for that, he’s going to have a special place in our
hearts and people will never forget what he’s meant to this program,” he said.
Semling said all three should also be remembered for how
good they’ve been academically, as they’re part of the National Championship
team last season that had a cumulative 3.58 GPA, and the kind of young men
they’ve been off the floor and what they’ve meant to the fans and community.
“I really appreciate and respect all of the guys that I’ve
ever played with, and those guys will be friends forever for me,” said McGann. “And
just playing in front of big crowds, I always loved the Point/Whitewater games,
just how many people would show up, and even last year with our tournament run
in the postseason, just how much support we got from the community.
“And obviously the winning tradition, not a lot of programs
get the chance to compete in those big NCAA games,” he said. “But I’ve been
able to every year I’ve been here, so it’s been a blessing.”
“Coming to Stevens
Point has just been such a great experience, it’s kind
of like a family and I felt so welcome,” said Pelkofer. “When I went to Northern Michigan, our average attendance was around 300
a game, and this year we’re (12-10) right now and we still lead the conference
“It’s just an unbelievable experience, being able to have
that many people that genuinely care about you, and they come to your games, no
matter if you’re winning, if you’re No. 1 in the nation, or if you’re not having
a great year,” he said.
“It’s honestly been a privilege,” said Patterson. “I
couldn’t have asked for a better place to play, I couldn’t ask for a better
group of guys to play with and be coached by two amazing coaches with Bob
Semling and (associate head coach) Kent Dernbach.
“And there’s no other place that we go and play that’s like
this community,” he said. “Whether we’re winning or losing, they have our backs
no matter what, and I’m truly grateful to be a part of this community and play
in front of these guys.”