By Paige Carswell
A new coach, the loss of last year’s biggest point contributor and a difficult preseason don’t seem to be slowing down members of the men’s basketball team. After dropping their first game by over 20 points, the men have bounced back, winning the next two to gain momentum going into their last home game of the month.
After the team plays against Graceland University at 7 p.m. Saturday, it will be seven straight games before the men regain a home court advantage.
“We have like an NBA schedule for a while,” said Matt O’Brien, head coach. “We’re just away and traveling.”
O’Brien said that this preseason was the toughest he’d been involved with, both as a player and a coach. The Builders lost to Mid-America Christian University 84-57 in their first game, but bounced back and won the next two by at least 10 points each. That kind of turnaround is something O’Brien thinks will be a catalyst for success during the season.
“I think after the first game I was concerned on how we would bounce back, but I was proud of our team. They stayed positive and continued to work hard and get better,” said O’Brien. “I think having a positive attitude is contagious and can be a major factor in having a good team throughout the course of the season. We want our players to have confidence that if they miss a shot, the next one is going in. If we play poorly one game, I want them to think that the next game we’re gonna play well.”
The men won 71-61 Wednesday evening to what O’Brien described as a “very athletic” team in Langston University. Last year the men won 76-74 against the Lions.
While the men are experiencing some success during the preseason, O’Brien said that there are a few things the team needs to get better at to experience the same thing during the regular season.
“We need to work on ball movement and player movement on the offensive end,” he said. “On defense, we need to work on jumping to the ball and being in a stance ready to guard the entire possession.”
O’Brien is also still looking for spots to be filled.
“We’ve made some adjustments,” said O’Brien. “After the first two games we’re looking at moving Marcus Batiste (senior guard) from exclusively a perimeter player to playing minutes at the post for us. Jared Irvin (sophomore guard) has also emerged as one of our top guards, which makes our backcourt even deeper.”
Irvin is hoping that a tough preseason will pay off. He said the team is playing better already and that the preseason is difficult, but that “hopefully it’ll pay off.”
O’Brien agrees. Because the season is long and so full of ups and downs, the preparation that the preseason provides tests the team not only physically, but mentally, he said.
“A big thing about having a successful basketball team is having players that can fight through adversity,” said O’Brien. “If we can overcome some of those things and stick together, I’m hoping that will carry over into the regular season, where we won’t give up and whatever adversity we’re going to face we’re going to overcome it.”
Paige Carswell is a junior majoring in journalism. You may e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.