By Byron Garcia, Janie Hodny, Olivia Ryan & Matt Seger
The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Men’s basketball team has a total of five NCAA appearances, with four of those coming during a six-year stretch in the mid-1990s and an appearance in 2016. Since then, they have not advanced to the championship. Currently, 10 players have entered the transfer portal for Green Bay. This means they are looking to transfer to another team and college. Some of the players in the transfer portal are Kamari McGee, Lucas Stieber, Japannah Kellogg III, Ryan Claflin, Tutu Majok, Blayton Williams, Donavan Moore, Emmanuel Ansong, and Donovan.
The Phoenix are coming off a season where they finished 5-25. Due to the transfers, it will create a busy offseason for UWGB Basketball coach Will Ryan. The remanding players on the team are Cade Meyer, Cem Kirciman, Randy Tucker, Brayden Dailey, and Nate Jenkins.
Ryan talks about what it may take to bounce back in the upcoming season. “It starts with building a roster and the culture. I know the women’s program has had a blueprint. That’s what makes GB basketball special. (They) have had sustained success over so many years. So, can we bring those fan bases together and believe in Phoenix basketball as one? I think that’s the first thing. The guys that stayed this year kind of helped lead the charge. We brought in a handful of new players and some young, some old, and the guys that did return did a good job of helping lead those younger guys and showing them how we kind of do things.”
Director of Athletics Josh Moon explained to us the game plan for the team, saying, “(T)he first thing is knowing who we are, and who we aren’t, and how do we get this region to believe again. Building this program to the point where it’s a mid-major power. That’s our goal. That’s what we want to do, that’s what Coach Ryan believes in, and that’s why I’m here.”
Dick Bennett, a former coach, stated, “(I)f he (Ryan) will be patient, and he can get his own guys in here, and if they stay loyal to the program, they will grow up in it. They will become more competitive. These first years are close to impossible, and I told him to ‘stay the course.” Bennet added, “It’s a very tough time. It’s much tougher than when I was here. The landscape of college basketball has changed, and it’s changing in even more ways that some of us struggle to see.”
Now the coaching staff and outsiders express trust in the team. The organizations have shown effort in turning the program of men’s basketball around, but it still begs the question. Why are so many players transferring away from Green Bay? Students Lucas Stieber and Japannah Kellogg III elaborate on what led to making the decision to leave the program. Japannah expressed that he felt that “What I had to bring to the team was undervalued or not needed.” Although things may not have ended on the best of terms when some players transferred, both Kellogg and Steiber stated that they “Wish them (Coach Ryan and the Team) nothing but the best and success moving forward. I hope they find who they want for the future of this program and the direction they are trying to go.”
Ryan was left with a lot of duties when Linc Darner was released from his head coaching duties at the end of May in the 2020 season. Despite the setbacks, Ryan thinks there are plenty of positives to build on from previous seasons. With the men’s basketball season on the horizon, can coach Will Ryan really bring the program back to its highest level as it once was, or will more individuals enter the transfer portal as others have? What will this next season hold for these athletes and coach Ryan, success or more stress?