(WFRV) – Just over a month ago, Sundance Wicks was named the ninth head coach in Green Bay men’s basketball history. Since then, Wicks has had to piece together pretty much a whole new roster heading into the 2023-24 basketball season and he gave an update about where the program is at.
The 2023 Phoenix-Packers Steak Fry was held this past week where Wicks chatted with community members as he continues to cement himself in the area. Just a day after the event, the program announced the additions of four players to the men’s basketball roster in 2023-24 that included: David Douglas Jr., Will Eames, Preston Ruedinger, and Rich Byhre.
“You know we’re actually in a really good space right now”, Wicks said. “We’re a long ways from where we were a month ago.”
From the start of March, the Phoenix have had a plethora of players enter the transfer portal:
- Nate Jenkins
- Donavan Short
- Davin Ziegler
- Cade Meyer
- Zae Blake
- Garren Davis
- Randy Tucker
- Ryan Wade
The change of scenery didn’t just happen with the former regime of players either. After committing to Green Bay in August of 2022, Neenah senior and basketball standout Cal Klesmit re-opened his college recruitment in late March of this year. Klesmit told Local 5 in February that his goal was to “change the program”, but ultimately took a different route after the announcement of the hiring of Wicks.
“My old college coach said, ‘The best recruits are the ones you don’t get’ because if you’re recruiting them and you’re giving them your best, you’re giving them everything you got and you’re telling the truth and you’re honest with them and they still decide not to come? Then they weren’t meant to be in your program anyway”, Wicks explained. “So I do know this – the ones that do commit and the ones that do stay and the ones that do play for us and are proud to Phoenix – they’re here for the right reasons.”
While multiple players continue to look elsewhere to advance their collegiate careers, Clarence Cummings III made the decision to stay a Phoenix after withdrawing his name from the transfer portal earlier this month. Green Bay’s leading scorer in 2022-23 had met Wicks during the women’s basketball NIT home game at the Kress Event Center. After a two-hour-long conversation with Wicks about basketball, life, and much more, it was apparent to Cummings that staying a Phoenix was the right choice.
“I feel like we’re on the turning point right now. We say we’re Phoenixes so you rise from the ashes. Hopefully we turn this around next year”, Cummings told Local 5.
After posting a 3-29 record in 2022, the worst season in Green Bay men’s basketball history, Wicks has provided a new voice and energy around the program that should have fans optimistic about what’s to come in the program. With change already in full gear for the men’s basketball team, Wicks is convinced the winning part could come sooner than later.
“I’m a big believer that culture doesn’t take four years”, Wicks said. “I’m just a big belief guy. You hear me say that. You create belief every day in what you do. So we are very intentional with how we go about things. So when you want a program to flip faster? You have to believe harder.”
One of those players that believed in Wicks’ recruiting pitch was David (DJ) Douglas Jr. The incoming freshman was the leading scorer in the state of Illinois as a senior a year ago. Wicks said in a statement that Douglas was the first player to believe in his vision of where the Phoenix could go.
“My family and I don’t want to go somewhere where a coach doesn’t believe that we can do something. We want to go somewhere where the coach actually believes and actually shows it through his talk and actions”, Douglas told Local 5. “I feel like (Wicks’) energy presented that and then he actually seemed confident.”
With multiple transfers and incoming freshmen like Douglas on their way into the program, more excitement has been added throughout the additions of Wisconsin high school basketball stars like Mac Wrecke and Marcus Hall. Wicks has done an impressive job early in the transition period getting new faces into the program and providing fresh air for fans. Players have been optimistic about where the men’s basketball team is headed after some dark times in recent years.
“(Wicks) brings the excitment every single day. He’s really energetic too. He brings that and then with new players, new recruites coming in – it should be a good year for us”, Cummings said.
“I just want to go there and make a big impact. I want to go out there and win games and show that we can compete with the best of them. I want to kind of turn the program around where we can, hopefully, make it to the NCAA Tournament. That’s a big goal that I have and I know it’s not going to be easy, but that’s definitely what I’m looking forward to”, Douglas explained.
If the energy from Sundance Wicks that the players rave about can translate to wins – then Green Bay athletic director Josh Moon knocked the hire out of the park. The goal still remains to be seen, but no doubt – the Phoenix have made strides in the last month and a half.