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Soler fills important gaps in men’s lineup

The focus all season for men’s basketball coach Dan Dakich has been to play well as a team. Individual stats and accomplishments are nothing if the Falcons are not winning on a consistent basis, he has preached.

Losing leading scorer Ron Lewis (17 points per game), who transferred to Ohio State, and Kevin Netter (12.5 ppg) to graduation, the Falcons needed to find role players this season that were willing to do whatever it takes to win games. Dakich had grown to be fed up with the individualism that surrounded the 2003-04 team that compiled a 14-17 record, suffering their second consecutive losing season.

Enter Mawel Soler, a junior transfer from Coffeyville Community College. Soler averaged 9.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, two assists and one steal per game as the Red Ravens put up an impressive 31-7 record last year.

This is the type of player Dakich was looking to mix with his three senior leaders in Josh Almanson, John Reimold and Cory Eyink. While most of the scoring would come from Almanson and Reimold, the Falcons were primed to have players fill the stat sheet and contribute when their number was called.

Soler, who was born in the Dominican Republic before moving to and growing up in New Jersey, has done what his coach has asked of him through the teams first 17 games.

“Basically I just try to do whatever coach wants me to do which is come off the bench and give the team energy,” Soler said. “I do whatever it takes to get W’s.”

That energy has resulted in consistent minutes for Soler, who is playing 17 minutes a game for the season and is getting 21.8 minutes in conference play.

For the season Soler is averaging 4.7 ppg and 3.3 rpg, but those numbers have increased in MAC play to 7.0 ppg and 4.2 rbg.

His tenacity on the court and all out effort has kept him in the regular rotation, while his selective shooting has resulted in an incredible 80.6 percent from the field, which he has a simple remidy for.

“Just take the good shots,” he said laughing. “Don’t force any shots up and just take the shots that are available. I got players like John Reimold and Josh, they’re there to take the shots. I’m just there to take the shots that are given to me.”

Soler’s enthusiasm and work ethic is something that Dakich cherishes and believes has been a difference maker in turning this year’s team into a winner.

“Mawel has been awesome,” Dakich said. “It is so much fun to have him here because when I go on the floor for practice, he picks me up. He’s the guy that makes everybody engergized, including coaches. Having players like Mawel has made this (season) a lot of fun.”

Dakich has been so impressed with Soler as a person that he would be even be willing to help out a person in need from Soler’s birthplace.

“The other day in church, my wife and I (were told that) you could sponsor a kid and we saw a kid from Santo Domingo, which is where Mawel’s from in Puerto Rico, and that was a kid we wanted to sponsor just because of how much we like Mawel.”

As Soler has made the leap from community college ball to Division I, he has seen many changes and is working to reach his ultimate goal of bringing BG basketball to prominence.

“You’ve got more athletes over here. Over there (at Coffeyville) we were like the cream of the crop-the team to beat. Over here, we’re trying to get there,” he said.

With starting forward Germain Fitch’s health in question after injuring his knee, Soler’s game has stepped up and will need to continue to improve for the Falcons to finish the regular season strong to compete for the MAC championship.

Based on his hard work and dedication, Soler leaves the impression that better things are yet to come from the team, not his numbers solely, which, as he would say, is the bottom line.

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