It’s been awhile since our last post, so let’s clean out the notebook with a few odds and ends as we approach the holidays.
- We are nearing the end of the final exams break. No competitions are permitted during this period, so that our student-athletes can focus on their exams, term papers, etc. This can be a stressful time of year for our winter athletes, who are right in the middle of their season, but still must make sure to have a strong finish to the first semester. Once exams are in the rear-view mirror, however, the winter teams have almost a month to train and compete before second-semester classes get underway.
- Regular attendees at Bucknell sporting events will begin seeing a familiar face, as former Bison football star A.J. Kizekai ’10 has been hired as assistant athletic director for operations and events. A.J. was a terrific running back and an even better kick returner during his playing days at Bucknell. He holds school records for most KO return yards in a game (210), season (1,113) and career (2,725), and in 2008 against Lafayette he recorded the only 100-yard return in school history. A.J.’s game at Colgate in 2007 was one of the most memorable in recent history, when he scored three first-half touchdowns on a rush, a reception and a kickoff return. That is the only time that feat has been accomplished in team history.
- The Bucknell men’s basketball team returns to the floor on Saturday against Siena in Glens Falls, N.Y., and then the Bison have two home games next week against Mount St. Mary’s and Princeton. The first semester was a big success for Nathan Davis’ squad. The team is 7-3 so far, including wins over Vanderbilt and Richmond. One of the big keys has been improved defense. Bucknell allowed 81 points per game in non-conference play last season, but that number has fallen to 71 this year. The Bison have held foes under 70 points in all but one of their wins, and last time out against Fairfield they forced 18 turnovers and held the high-scoring Stags to their lowest point total of the season. It was expected that the team would be more comfortable this year playing the matchup defense — don’t call it a “zone”, reminds Coach Davis — but he says a big key to the improvement has been better play out of the man-to-man. In fact, Coach Davis told the crowd at last week’s Backcourt Club Luncheon that the team actually only played a handful of possessions in the matchup in the games leading up to the break. Playing solid, aggressive defense out of both looks will be key for the Bison going into Patriot League play.
- Speaking of great defense, the women’s basketball squad found plenty of that in a 57-35 rout of St. Bonaventure on the road in their last game before the exam break. The Bonnies were a second-round NCAA Tournament team a year ago, but the Bison turned in their best defensive performance in nearly four years. Aaron Roussell’s squad is 6-3 overall and 4-3 on the road against a touch schedule. Each of their last five opponents played in a postseason tournament in 2016. After playing seven of their first nine games on the road, the team finally has a run of home games, with three straight and five of the next six at Sojka Pavilion. Next up is Cleveland State on Sunday at 2 p.m.
- We knew freshman Kaitlin Salisbury was coming in with some impressive track and field credentials, after all she was a four-time New Jersey state champion at Hawthorne High School, but it was still a really cool feat when she broke the Bucknell record in the 60-meter dash literally the first time she stepped into the starting blocks in a collegiate race. At the Bison Opener in Gerhard Fieldhouse on Dec. 3, Katilin ran 7.62 in her qualifying heat to smash the school mark previously shared by Jess Bridle and Sasha Hornock. Kaitlin then ran 7.70 in the finals to win the event. She later won the 200-meter dash with the sixth-fastest time in school history. Kaitlin also excels in the long and triple jumps, so keep an eye out for her and the rest of a very promising first-year class for the Bison women’s track and field team.
- Last month we provided an alumni update on some former Bison now competing professionally. Since that report, there has been a change of circumstances for Chris Hass ’16. The former Bison hoops star had been playing with Phoenix Hagen in Germany’s top division. We mentioned that the team was off to a slow start at 0-7. Well that winless streak reached 11 games to start the year, and then … the team folded! It could not overcome major financial issues and was forced to close up shop. Fortunately, Chris quickly landed another job, and he is now playing for CEZ Nymburk in the Czech Republic. Chris hit a couple of 3-pointers in his debut for his new team, which this time sits at the top of the table with a 14-1 record in the Czech NBL.
- Cool recognition here for Charlie Waddell ’07, who was named to the Global Golf Post All-Am Team (honorable mention).
- Speaking of golf, our annual athletic department holiday luncheon was held today at the Bachman Golf Center. In keeping with the setting, this year we had long-drive and putting competitions. Wrestling coach Dan Wirnsberger, who is a wonderful player, was the heavy favorite in the long-drive contest. Coach Wirnsberger said his handicap has been as low as a 2.5, but now he plays at about a 5. Athletic communications director Jon Terry, who is terrible with the flat-stick in real life, somehow managed to win the putting competition.
- And finally, we would like to send best wishes to Mark Keppler, who is going to be retiring at the end of the month after 31 years as Bucknell’s head athletic trainer. Mark’s work has impacted thousands of Bison student-athletes through the years, and he will be greatly missed. Remarkably, Bucknell has had only two head athletic trainers dating back to 1948, when the program started in earnest here.