EDWARDSVILLE — Former SIUE player and assistant coach Ben Wierzba is returning to SIUE as an assistant men’s basketball coach.
Wierzba has been tabbed by head coach Lennox Forrester to fill the spot left by Mitch Gilfillan, who joined Illinois State during the summer.
“The fact that Ben is a former player at SIUE is significant,” Forrester said. “He also is a former head coach and that’s important, for the experience factor.”
“I’m happy to be back,” Wierzba said. “Obviously this is a place that means a lot to me.”
The native of Farmington, Ill., joins the Cougars following four seasons as the head coach at Division II Illinois-Springfield. Wierzba led the Prairie Stars to three consecutive Great Lakes Valley Conference tournament appearances. He was only the second head coach in the history of the UIS program, taking over during the second year of Division II play. The Prairie Stars were 12-6 in the GLVC West during the 2011-2012 season, just one game back of the lead. Wierzba had an overall record of 41-67 while at UIS.
“Ben is someone who takes pride in this program and has a great knowledge of the game,” Forrester said. “He knows this university and when it comes to recruiting, he knows the state well.”
The appointment marks Wierzba’s third stint with the Cougars. He finished his collegiate career at SIUE in 1999. He averaged 12.6 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists during the 1998-99 campaign for SIUE. Wierzba returned to SIUE as an assistant coach under former head coach Marty Simmons during 2006-2007. He moved to Evansville when Simmons took over as the head coach in 2007. Wierzba remained at Evansville until taking over at UIS.
“Working for Coach Forrester is a great situation for me,” Wierzba said. “I’m excited about this program and where things are going.”
Wierzba also has had coaching stints at North Dakota, St. Joseph’s (Indiana), West Point, and Lewis (Illinois).