The 3rd Man In

Wichmann believes team can prove doubters wrong

After a disappointing 2015-16 season that saw the Milwaukee Panthers finish an underwhelming fifth in the Horizon League, head coach Rob Jeter was dismissed. The ripple effect saw four players request and receive their releases, allowing them to talk to other universities about potentially transferring.

Three of those players decided to leave Milwaukee for other basketball programs. The only one who chose to stay was senior guard Cody Wichmann.

“Main reason was my teammates,” Wichmann said on why he decided to stay at UWM. “I have some of my best friends here. We’ve been close for three, four years. I’ve even grown close to the news guys already. My teammates definitely and the coaching staff for sure. We brought in some really, really, really good coaches. Ultimately, it was my teammates and this school that did it for me.”

First-year head coach LaVall Jordan is ecstatic Wichmann decided to stay and said that he’s made the transition to Milwaukee easier for him.

“We have a unique relationship,” Jordan said of Wichmann. “Just talking through logistically how things were and what we did travel and meal wise. Just trying to get a really good feel for the place. He and Dan (Studer) helped a ton with the transition.

“We brought recruits on campus and they were our ambassadors when hosting visits. They were taking it by the horns when they decided they were two feet in. That I can’t say enough about how much I appreciate that.”

Wichmann is the Panthers leading returning scorer, averaging 4.8 points and 2.0 rebounds per game as a junior last season. A dangerous 3-point shooter, Wichmann spent the off-season improving his passing, while getting stronger in the weight room.

“My dad always told me if you can shoot they will find a spot for you,” Jordan said. “(Wichmann) can definitely shoot the basketball. We are working on trying to expand his game. He can pass as well. He’s a good passer, especially in the stand still reading action. Use him in some situations there.

“He’s trying to make his best commitment to become a good defender. He’s a smart IQ so he can be in the position to be in the right place. He’s starting to communicate and more of a traffic cop as he’s learning our terminology. It’s really good to have him.”

With Milwaukee losing its top five scorers to graduation or transfer, Wichmann figures to be the Panthers go-to scorer this season. He’s excited for the opportunity and said it’s not any added pressure because he’s confident in his teammates abilities.

Milwaukee opens the regular season on Nov. 11 against Division III MSOE at home, but expectations aren’t high for the Panthers. Ranked last in the 10-team Horizon League, the Panthers goal is still to make the NCAA tournament.

The Panthers aren’t worried about people’s expectations and are hoping to prove the doubters wrong, Wichmann said.

“People don’t really know who we are or what we have,” Wichmann said. “You can’t look too much into that. It is kind of fuel to the fire, but we are just going to go out there, compete and see what happens.”

Playing defense is key for the Panthers if they want to earn a berth into the Big Dance.

“That’s what we’ve been working on a lot (is defense),” Wichmann said. “A lot of defensive things and ultimately making shots. We have a lot of guys who can score the ball. I’m excited about it. We are going to play defense and run.”

In 2013-14, the Panthers were predicted to finish last in the preseason conference poll. After finishing with a 17-13 regular season record, Milwaukee went on a magical run and became the first No. 5 seed in league history to win the conference tournament, earning an automatic berth into the NCAA tournament.

Wichmann was a freshman that year. Now a senior, he hopes this year’s squad can mimic a similar path and leave its own legacy.

“I want to win some games,” Wichmann said. “Just to keep getting better every day with these guys because we have a lot of new faces. Just seeing them from when they got onto campus to where they are now is night and day. To see what we can have with the whole season – it’s going to be something special.”

Read other feature articles on current members of the men’s basketball team here:
Saddler thrilled for opportunity at Milwaukee
LaVall Jordan determined to build winning culture

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