Getting to Know Valpo – Part 2
(St. Louis, MO) – Valparaiso is the newest member of the Missouri Valley Conference, and that didn’t happen by accident. Crusader administrators spent four years preparing for the opportunity to make the step up to the Valley.
When the MVC was looking to replace Creighton as the Bluejays left the conference in 2013, two Horizon League members were reported to be the finalists to take CU’s place. Valparaiso finished second to Loyola in that competition.
In the ensuing four years, the Crusaders won three conference championships, 100 games and improved their facilities. When the Valley went looking for a replacement when Wichita State left the league, Valparaiso was the most likely candidate and after a rigorous process the Crusaders won the prize.
Director of Athletics Mark LaBarbera says the process was a nerve racking, but Valpo officials stayed the course and prevailed in the end.
Valparaiso steps into the Valley with a solid winning tradition, fostered by Homer, Bryce and Scott Drew. Second year head coach Matt Lottich says the legendary Homer Drew is more than just an accomplished and successful coach.
Mid-major teams struggle for recognition, with budgets, scheduling and myriads of other challenges. LaBarbera, who has worked at virtually every level of college athletics, joined the Lutheran University in 2004. He was given one directive by those hiring him. “Take Valparaiso to the next level.”
The New York native and DePaul graduate has been aggressive in building the Crusader athletic department.
Basketball fans know of Valparaiso has had success recruiting international players for their program. That international flavor is reflected throughout the Valpo campus, as LaBarbera tells us the university has actively recruited international students to the northern Indiana school.
Lottich’s 2017-18 roster contains two Canadians, one player from Spain and a new recruit from Germany. His professional playing career took him to Japan, Germany and New Zealand, so the New Trier, Illinois High School grad has respect for and understanding of the adjustment period for his foreign players.
While Lottich had a highly successful playing career (Stanford University in addition to his significant international pro career) he cut his teeth coaching under Bryce Drew in the Horizon League. Now he has a genuine excitement about coaching in the Valley.
In our third installment of ‘Getting to Know Valpo‘ we’ll introduce you to the players that will be taking the shots, grabbing rebounds and attempting to break the hearts of Valley fans.