Andrew Ziemnik (right) now wears a handband to contol his hair on the court for Illinois Wesleyan (Photo by B Corbin/WJBC)
By Eric Stock
ORLANDO, Fla. – Without consulting the record books, it’s safe to say Andrew Ziemnik has the longest hair of any Illinois Wesleyan basketball player in history.
At least any men’s player.
Coach Ron Rose decided before the start of the season to depart from a long-standing policy which goes back to the days when Dennie Bridges roamed the sidelines at IWU.
“I’ve kind of followed coach Bridges’ rule, make your game do the talking, not how you look,” Rose said. “Z is probably doing a little bit of both.”
Rose told the junior forward from Oswego that he could go back to the long hair that he wore in high school.
“He said I basically earned it," Ziemnik said. "Hey, if I get to keep my hair, I’m going to keep my hair."
The shoulder-length coif (which he claims was much longer in high school) isn’t the only part of Andrew Ziemnik that’s caused Titan fans to take notice.
He has shown more of a scoring punch (averaging 9.8 points per game) as he’s moved from power forward to small forward as has had to display more of an outside shooting game.
“It opens up the floor and enables me to drive and crash. They want me to be the aggressor, be me and get as many hustle plays as I can and playing the three allows me to do that,” Ziemnik said.
Rose said he moved Ziemnik outside to get another shooter to help replace the Titans’ four perimeter players from their Final Four team last year, but also doesn’t want to take away Ziemnik’s post presence.
“To an extent, we took him away from his strengths. So there’s a balance we are trying to find so we can utilize him as a big three for our team, but also make sure we get him in the post some because that’s who he is,” Rose said.
As for letting his hair down, he expects fans in opposing venues at Wheaton and Augustana and a few others won’t let him live it down.
“I got harassed in high school and I know all the different names and stuff, so I don’t really think it’s going to be that big of a deal,” Ziemnik said.
Fun ‘n sun in Orlando
Coach Ron Rose said the two games at the Div. III Basketball Classic against Mississippi College and Hope will be a good test for his No. 17-ranked team before play begins in the rugged College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin.
“The hope is that we develop even more chemistry than we have right now. We’ve been able to use these tournaments as a springboard for second semester and go into conference play playing good basketball,” Rose said.
Senior forward Kevin Reed said he enjoys playing against non-conference opponents because it's less about them and more about execution.
“It’s fun because there’s not as much scouting involved and you just go out there and play. You don’t have to worry about matchups and stuff,” Reed said.
Mississippi (5-4) was a Div. II program until 1996 and will be returning to DII. Hope suffered only two losses last season, the second being to the Titans in the NCAA Div. III tournament on the Flying Dutchmen’s home floor.
The Div. III Basketball Classic is hosted by Hope College. It’s being played at the RDV Sportsplex which was built by Orlando Magic and Amway owner Rich DeVos whose name also adorns DeVos Fieldhouse at Hope. The Magic had used the Sportsplex as its practice facility until it moved to the Amway Center when it opened in 2010.
Eric Stock can be reached at email@example.com.