WARSAW – Paul Marandet spent his high school basketball career as a true difference maker on the hardwood.
Nothing has changed as the former WCHS standout has taken his game to the next level.
Marandet, the outstanding point guard who helped lead the Tigers to a semistate appearance last season, is off to a flying start in his freshman season at Spring Arbor University in Michigan.
“I’ve been really happy with my level of play so far,” said Marandet in a phone interview Tuesday. “Am I satisfied? No. I still have plenty of work to do and things to get better at.”
Marandet, as he did for the Tigers, is doing a lot of things well as the NAIA Division II Cougars sit at 9-6. The 6-0 guard is averaging 11.1 points per game to with 2.6 rebounds per contest. He has started 14 games and is averaging 28 minutes per contest while shooting 46 percent overall from the field, including 44 percent from 3-point range, and 83 percent from the free throw line. Marandet also has an almost 2-1 assist to turnover ratio.
Spring Arbor, which is coached by Ryan Cottingham, competes in the outstanding Crossroads League. The conference, which includes Grace, Bethel, Goshen and Huntington, currently has four teams ranked in the top 25 of the latest coaches NAIA Division I poll. The Cougars are 2-2 in league play and had a five-game win streak snapped Monday night with an 80-75 non-conference loss to Albion. Marandet had a team-high 17 points to with five assists and just one turnover in the game.
Marandet relishes the challenge of playing in one of the best small college hoops conferences in the country.
“I love going out and competing against all the great players in this league,” Marandet said. “I take a lot of pride in my defense and going head-to-head trying to stop guys.”
Marandet, who possesses a strong basketball IQ, was a defensive stopper last year for coach Doug Ogle’s team that posted a 25-2 mark and won conference, sectional and regional championships. The Tigers allowed just 29 points-per-game, one of the best averages in the state.
Marandet is very happy with his decision to help try and revive a Spring Arbor program. The Cougars finished 8-22 overall and 2-16 in Crossroads League play last season.
“I love it here,” Marandet stated. “I knew that I could come in here and make an impact right away and have a chance to help transform a program. It was a great decision to come here.”
Marandet, who was the 2015 IFN Player of the Year, averaged 13 points, four rebounds and four assists his senior season for the Tigers.
“My coaches at Warsaw did a great job getting me ready for college,” said Marandet of Ogle and assistant coaches David Wayne and Hal Gunter. “The biggest difference and transition for me has been to adjust to the pace of play in college with a shot clock on offense. Other than that, I’ve been pretty comfortable.”
The Spring Arbor roster features four seniors to go with four freshmen. A total of 10 players are from Michigan, while the other three hail from Indiana.
“I like our team a lot and everyone has bought into their roles for us,” said Marandet. “I just see us continuing to go up and up as a team. Our defense is very good as a team and that’s really important. Good defense always travels and will always keep you in the game.”
Marandet, whose team returns to action on Dec. 30 with a game at Purdue Calumet, planned to stay away from the gym for all of one day on his current break at home for the holidays.
“We had a tough practice Tuesday morning (after a game Monday night) and I said that there would be no basketball on Wednesday,” related Marandet. “After that, it’s back in the gym during our break to stay sharp.”
Marandet, who was a two-time All-NLC pick after helping Warsaw win back-to-back league championships the past two years, is also looking forward to the 2017 portion of the schedule. Spring Arbor will play conference games at Huntington (Jan. 7), at Bethel (Jan. 10), at Grace (Feb. 11) and at Goshen (Feb. 14). That will give fans of Tiger Nation plenty of chances to see a true fan favorite play in person again.
“I can’t wait to get back to Indiana to play,” said Marandet. “I’m very excited about those games, especially the one at Grace. Hopefully there will be a big crowd there. I can’t wait to see all the local fans who supported me in high school.”
It’s a safe bet that the feeling is mutual too.