By Lenny Padilla
Signing autographs is a foreign concept for most basketball players in NCAA Division III. They'd rather have a ball in their hands than a Sharpie.
Yet, the Hope College men's basketball team had a blast signing posters for fans after Saturday's Youth Day game, an 82-64 non-conference victory against Anderson University (Indiana) that improved the Flying Dutchmen to 3-0 on the season.
Junior forward Preston Granger of Lansing, Michigan (Lansing Christian) scored a game-high 22 points. Senior guard Riley Lewis of Williamston, Michigan (Williamston) added 16 points. Sophomore guard Tyler George of Ada, Michigan (Forest Hills Central) had 14.
Granger led the charge by scoring 13 second-half points during the second half.
"That was our big focus at halftime. We've got to get him the rock," George said. "When he's down there (in the paint) he's pretty darn efficient, so strong. We got him the ball a lot more in the second half and that was key for us."
The Flying Dutchmen outscored Anderson (2-2) by a 42-27 margin after halftime.
"We didn't finish the half like a championship team," Hope coach Greg Mitchell said. "But we responded like a championship in the second half. It was a really good team win. Nate Davis comes in and did a good job in the first half. Joe Wilkins comes in does a good job. I thought Sam Vree had the best half of his career. He dominated the game without scoring."
Davis had four points in five minutes of play. Wilkins had five rebounds, an assist and a steal while Vree had five points, three rebounds and two blocked shots. Ryan Gamm, a junior from Rockford, finished with four points, three blocked shots and a game-high 10 rebounds.
It was a big game for freshman Clayton Dykhouse, too. The Zeeland East grad started his first game and had a game-high six assists and two points.
"He's gonna be special," George said. "He's really fun to play with. He's had some great moments in practice so far and there's been flashes in games where everyone can see he's gonna be special. The way he handles it and passes it."
George is averaging 13 points per game this season. He's come a long way from his freshman year, when he scored a a total of 23 points in 15 games.
"It's pretty sweet," George said of being in the starting lineup. "This offseason was the best of my career in terms of how much I got better. I stayed on campus this summer and worked in the weight room. I worked on my body to get stronger and that's helped a lot. A few of those finishes today, I wouldn't have been able to make last year."
George, a 6-foot-1 guard, went 4-for-5 from the field and was 5-of-6 from the free-throw line on Saturday.
"Ty's a heady player with a high IQ," Mitchell said. "It doesn't hurt that he's the son of a coach and has been around the game. He just gets it. He works so hard in the offseason. He's in much better conditioned player."
George's father Ken George was his coach at Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central. His older brother, Jordan, is now the boys junior varsity coach for the Rangers. Jordan was a student assistant coach at Hope.
"Coming in and having that comfortability with knowing my brother was gonna be here with me (at Hope) helped," George said of the transition to college.
Hope's next games are Friday-Saturday, November 29-30 against Cornerstone University and Aquinas College at the Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame Tournament hosted by Cornerstone.