ABOVE: Cooper Pierce, junior guard, defends Carson Loya, sophomore guard, while squaring off in practice. (Daegiona Wilson/Staff photographer)

By Daegiona Wilson
Staff reporter

Moundbuilder men’s basketball is looking ahead to a new and improved season. SC will tip off the start to their season this Tuesday, 7 p.m. at Stewart Fieldhouse against Spurgeon College.

The Moundbuilders ended last season with a 23-8 record after an 0-4 start. Throughout the season, the Builders got into their element and seemed as if they were ready to make a tournament run. Things didn’t go their way, as they fell short to the Bethel Threshers, in the first round of the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference Tournament.

For this season, the Builders were picked to finish 3rd in the KCAC preseason poll. Matt O’Brien, head coach, said “I feel good about that. I don’t put that much thought, especially energy into the rankings. That’s the great thing about sports, you just get to play.”

Quintin Wallace, senior center, said “I don’t care what they rank us. I feel like we are number one so we are just going to work harder. I know that they feel like they are number one so we are going to just keep doing what we are doing.”

The Builders return four seniors who all contributed valuable minutes last season. Along with this, the team has a solid amount of transfers who are expected to play minutes this season. “We got a good group of new players and a good group of returning players. So I think we got a good blend” said O’Brien.

Although there is talent throughout the entire team, Troy Baker, senior power forward, said, “We started a bit rough but we all are starting to click a bit more and it’s becoming a lot smoother, and frankly it’s a lot more fun.”

“I think it takes time to get to a championship level of chemistry. I think it’s a process” said O’Brien. Playing together won’t be such a problem, but “I think it takes time to earn the trust of your teammates to play for your teammates. I think once you start playing for your teammates it changes everything.”

Wallace, said “We got some good pieces. They fit well and everybody is just buying in right now. Everybody is putting in the work and it’s going to pay off soon.”

Two additions consist of Seminole State junior college transfer Tony Kinser and Campus High School freshmen Steele Chapman.

Kinser will be a force down low, said O’Brien, helping to continue the defensive tradition SC has instilled. “Troy led the KCAC with shot-blocking. Then we have Tony Kinser who led his region in junior college in shot-blocking. So we will probably have two of the best shot blockers in the country on the same team.”

Chapman was a highly recruited player out of the Wichita area. “He is probably the freshmen that will be in rotation for us. We have other good freshmen but he is the freshman that is ready to contribute at the varsity level for us” said O’Brien.

Given the pandemic, it has made things a little more difficult on a daily. “It’s tedious. Getting checked in every time and having to do all the COVID tests, it’s been different, but we’ve been getting through it” said Baker. “One of our mottos for the team is ‘Adversity is pure joy’ and anything that is going to make it harder for us and them is better for us. We take it as an advantage.”

O’Brien said adapting is something the team has been forced to do. “Every single sport has, every single coach has. What I look at is a big advantage for us. The more adversity the better. I hope the tougher people and tougher teams are going to prevail, so bring it on.”

With uncertainty in the air, Baker said he is still looking forward to sticking to the game plan and finishing out a good senior season. “I’m going to do what I do every time. I’m going to lock in, pick one dude on the court and say ‘you’re not scoring’ and help my teammates whenever they get beat or anything, try to block the shot, or contest it anyway I can. Try to be as annoying I can on defense.”

O’Brien said the game plan remains the same. “We are going to keep the main thing, the main thing.”

“We’re going to still try and run, and play the same pack defense we play.”

This Tuesday will be the start of a busy schedule before January. As the Builders aren’t used to this, it will be something different due to the fact that gaining momentum from the crowd won’t be the same since students will be home for winter break.

O’Brien said, “I’m just excited about the year. The atmosphere of everything. It’s hard to describe the Builder love. In the fieldhouse, you can almost feel the Builder love sometimes. I’m excited, I think we need the Builder love in the fieldhouse, and hopefully, we can be a part of bringing that together.”

To watch Tuesday night’s game against Spurgeon, visit, https://portal.stretchinternet.com/sckans/