Players find a comfortable fit, fun at Fontbonne University

Fontbonne University's men's basketball team is seeking to hit its stride this year, with an 8-11 overall record, 6-6 in conference (SLIAC) play as of Feb. 2.

The road to consistency got a little tougher with injuries to two key players, starters Richard Dorhauer and Ben Kissing, who missed an 82-53 win Jan. 27 over Iowa Wesleyan and a 78-60 loss Jan. 30 to Spalding College. Dorhauer, a St. John Vianney High School graduate, averages 11 points a game, third on the team behind Kissing, who averages 15 points.

Easy transition

Dorhauer, a senior, said the transition from high school to Fontbonne was smooth. "It just felt comfortable right off the bat," Dorhauer explained. "I knew I wanted to play basketball. Coming from a Catholic family, and having my parents' opinion matter a lot, we sat down and saw Fontbonne as the best option. Close to home, it is where the family can see me play."

The Division III team plays a high level of competition, he said, pointing to Washington University and Iowa Wesleyan as two of those schools. Some of the players could play at a higher level but choose to go to the Division III teams because of better academics, he noted.

"It's been a fun four years," Dorhauer said. "It really flies by."

The players on the team are a close group. "You build a trust and brother-like relationship with your teammates, knowing they're always going to have your back," the sleek guard said.

Vianney had 90-minute classes, which prepared him well for college. "I wasn't worried about how long classes were going to be, how much work we were going to have or anything like that," he noted.

The business major sees Fontbonne as giving him opportunities and encouraging him to explore options.

A member of St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Brentwood, he credits his parents with providing him with a solid upbringing and faith. "So when there's obstacles in life, I look at it as a challenge, and I can take that head-on," Dorhauer noted. "I know that at times things are going to be rough. You just have to be mentally strong and strong in your faith in order to get through that."

Preparation

James Wiggins, a sophomore guard from St. Mary's High School in pre-nursing, is in his first full year at Fontbonne after transferring from Lindenwood University's Belleville, Ill., campus. "I've been a student-athlete all my life," he said. "Basketball helps me stay focused academically and it gives me something to do every day. Of course, it's something I really love to do."

He appreciated the college-credit classes offered at St. Mary's. "Academically it prepared me," he said. "And athletically, a lot of my teammates went on to play on the college level, and they shared some of their wisdom with me."

He enjoys the competition of basketball and is working to get better: "We're a bunch of guys working hard, trying to get a win. We're guys who have each other's backs."

Wiggins formerly attended Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis Parish, and now he and his family are members of St. Elizabeth Mother of John the Baptist Parish. Combining academics and athletics can be stressful at times he said, especially when some things are out of his control. "My mom always told me, 'Let go and let God.' That's something I've always thought about when things get rough. Just praying and staying with your faith. Although it may seem like a dark time, there's always a bigger plan at play. So just stay strong and continue to push forward."

Working as a unit

Lance Thornhill said his first year as head coach has meant a lot more responsibility but he enjoys the basketball as he seeks to get the players to perform to their best level. Some nights the team is "firing on all cylinders and working together as a unit" and other nights the team gets behind and misfires. "We definitely haven't performed at our peak yet," the coach said. "We're still waiting for that to hit."

He's trying to find the right mix of quick, smaller players and taller players who go to the basket.

Thornhill appreciates the Catholic high schools in the St. Louis area for their quality basketball teams. At Fontbonne, he noted, academics comes first. Most rewarding for him is "I get to do what I've always wanted to do. I feel very fortunate. Fontbonne has been very good to me."

The head coach has been with Fontbonne for 20 years and was the top assistant coach for the men's program for 18 years. He brings a wealth of experience to the bench and has aided in much of Fontbonne basketball's success over the years including four conference tournament championships accompanied by four national tournament appearances.

Fontbonne has everything a big Catholic institution has only it's on a smaller scale, the coach noted, adding that its business and education programs especially are highly regarded. 

Fontbonne University

Fontbonne was to play at home at 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 6, vs. Webster University. The team's next game, also at home, is at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 10, vs. Greenville.

Players on Fontbonne who attended Catholic high schools in the archdiocese are:

• Richard Dorhauer, a senior from St. John Vianney High School majoring in business

• Garrett McDowell, a junior from St. Pius X High School majoring in sports management and math

• James Wiggins, a sophomore from St. Mary's High School majoring in biology/pre-nursing

• Lelis Djona, a senior from St. John Vianney High School majoring in global studies 

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