Senior becomes responsible

Twice Mawel Soler found himself in unfamiliar situations before the start of the basketball season.

First, he was asked to be a leader for the first time in his career. Then he was told to leave the team after BGSU coach Dan Dakich sensed a lack of responsibility from his lone senior.

Dakich had let selfish players sabotage his team in the past, and he vowed to never let it happen again.

“He was basically told by me that you’re not going to be a part of this team,” Dakich said. “If you want to be a part of this team, you’re going to have to earn the respect of the player and the coaches.”

With a large freshman class coming in, Dakich needed a veteran with leadership qualities. Slowly, Soler has become that guy, realizing it was imperative for his personal agenda to be consistent with what’s best for the team. After going through several disciplinary conditioning drills, Soler was allowed back on the team after missing about five practices.

“I’m guessing I grew up,” he said. “I wanted this to be a good season, not just a season where it was me and him fighting back and forth. He was going to have the say so anyway, so for me to fight him was a lose-lose situation.”

Soler, the Falcons’ lone senior, was MIA during media day and missed the team’s first five practices.

“Mawel had to make a commitment to responsibility,” Dakich said. “He was irresponsible in certain things that a senior can’t be irresponsible in.”

Soler has accepted a leadership role both on and off the floor, averaging 7.3 points and five rebounds a game. In BG’s 59-52 win over rival Toledo on Jan. 15, Soler had game highs with 17 points and nine boards.

And when he’s not putting up gaudy statistics, Soler is making an impact by firing up his teammates.

“We talked going into this year that you’re no longer a role guy,” Dakich said. “You have to learn to be a main guy, and I think that’s been hard for him.”

But Soler is now holding himself accountable and setting a better example for the younger guys on the team. It’s not unusual for Dakich to enter Anderson Arena two hours before tip-off and see Soler shooting baskets by himself.

“He’s made a real commitment to the basketball team here of late,” Dakich said. “I would say since we’ve been back from Christmas break, I’ve seen a switch flipped on him where he’s committed to being responsible for the team.”

Falcons begin East slate

The Falcons will play their first game against a Mid-American Conference East Division opponent at home tonight against Buffalo.

BGSU, 7-9 overall, finished 3-3 against the MAC West, but the East is clearly the tougher division so far. The Falcons will play five consecutive games against East opponents beginning tonight against the Bulls (13-4, 3-3). Buffalo fell to Central Michigan, 71-61 Saturday, snapping a 13-game home win streak. Central, which was beaten 68-44 by the Falcons earlier this month, is now just 3-12 (1-6).

“I don’t know if it was an aberration for Buffalo, but Central played really well,” Dakich said.

Meanwhile, the Falcons are coming off a frustrating 62-61 setback at Ball State – a game in which they led by nine points with 10:28 remaining.

“I’m not going to let a one-point road loss get me in a panic about how we’re playing because I like the way we’ve played,” Dakich said.