November 08, 2016
A new season approaches the men’s basketball team after they made it to the RMAC Shootout quarterfinals last season.
Their first practice started on Oct. 11.
Jeff Culver, five-year head coach for the men’s basketball team enters the ’16 -‘17 season hoping to build on last year’s success.
The team’s first games are on Nov. 11 against University of Texas-Permian Basin and Nov. 12 against Tarleton State University at the Texan Tip-Off Classic in Stephenville, Texas. The first games will be a good challenge for the team early in the season, according to Culver.
“I think it’ll be a good early test for some strong, in-region competition for us to play against and gauge to see where we’re at,” said Culver.
The team opened the ’15 -’16 season with a 14-0 record for the longest winning streak in program history. They were ranked nationally in the top 10 slots in scoring offense and field goal percentage and earned the No. 4 seed in the South Central Region for the highest national ranking in program history.
This year’s team received 131 votes from RMAC coaches, placing them at the No. 5 spot for the ‘16-‘17 RMAC Preseason Coache’s Poll.
Despite the high expectations, there will be some adjustment, said Culver. The team is without three former senior players who logged heavy minutes, making them a key part of last year’s winning offense.
Without these players, there is some rebuilding for the team’s young lineup, according to Culver.
“We’ve got some good young talent on the team that we feel will contribute, and we’ve got some good upperclassmen leaders that are helping to patch it together with our younger roster,” said Culver.
“It’s just about execution, and guys stepping into new roles this season and being able to execute both our offensive and defensive philosophy and game plans.”
While the team has been practicing to integrate their new talent and polish their play, they are mostly sticking to strategies the program has developed that have worked in the past.
“We’ll be really strong defensively this year, and I think we’ll have another opportunity to share the ball and do what we do offensively; it’ll just look a little bit different with the individual parts,” said Culver.
Ryan VanPelt, junior center, said that what the team lacks in experience, they make up for with chemistry. The team spends time together both on and off the court, meeting each other multiple times a day outside of practice.
“We all get along really well and I think that definitely replicates on the court,” said VanPelt, a mechanical engineering major.
“When we’re playing offense, we share the ball and know each other’s strengths and it benefits us for sure.”
According to TreShawn Wilford, senior forward, the team hopes to increase their playing speed while staying under control for their upcoming games.
“We’re going to push the tempo and try to outrun teams. We want to make sure we can play fast while making smart decisions” said Wilford, an education and elementary history major.
The team looks forward to their games against rivals Metro State and the Colorado Mines. The team’s long term goals include winning the RMAC conference championship and hosting the national tournament, but are taking their season one game at a time.
“We’re just working hard every day, getting stronger, trying to learn from our mistakes and trying to be a little bit better today than we were yesterday,” said Culver.