Knox basketball is in a transitional period.
Both the men’s and women’s teams named new head coaches last season, and both teams are young, the men’s team having no seniors on the roster this year and the women’s team losing no seniors to graduation last year. Additionally, few seniors will be lost to graduation next year.
Unfortunately, even with all the young talent, things are not going so well for the men’s team. The team is currently 1-3 in conference play and 1-10 overall. With star forward Matt Goedeke, a junior, out for the season with a broken foot, head coach Rob Purlee said the team “needs someone to step up.”
Even with Goedeke, however, the team was having problems.
“We need to learn how to finish,” Purlee said.
It’s true. Over winter break, the team hung with opponents until the late minutes of the second half, only to cave spectacularly at the end. Even in their win against Beloit, the Prairie Fire gave up their imposing first-half lead in the second-half, and were just barely able to finish with the win, which is their only victory so far this season. Purlee stressed the need for the team to continue to “improve on the basics” and be consistent throughout games.
Despite the lackluster season so far, the team remains hopeful: Jack Moore and Jacob Lewis, two sophomores who did not get playing time last year, have made vast improvements to their respective games, deepening the bench for Knox. Lewis in particular has become the Prairie Fire’s best percentage three-point shooter.
In addition, the Prairie Fire received two transfer players this term, freshman forward Doug Lillibridge from Dubuque University, and sophomore point guard Tanner Carlson from University of Wisconsin-Platteville. According to junior guard Roger Ortiz, Carlson has already supplanted him as the starting point guard, which speaks to the depth of the bench.
The men’s team will have some hurdles to overcome in the coming month, as they face teams with winning records: St. Norbert for two games, Ripon, and conference-leading Carroll.
The players apparently are not too worried about meeting these challenges, however. According to Purlee, they were put through a rigorous training regimen in the offseason by assistant coach Bobby Wheet. A regimen sophomore guard Ben Wetherbee said had the team getting up at six in the morning to work out three days a week in the spring and fall, and every day at six during the two weeks leading up to the season opener.
Wetherbee said that everyone on the team is in excellent physical condition. Hopefully this will help the team stay consistent in their attempt to turn their season around.
The women’s team has fared better than the men’s so far this year, going 1-3 in conference play and 5-5 overall. Head coach Emily Cline cites the team’s improved depth as the biggest improvement so far this season. Like Purlee, she also stresses consistency as the key to success, saying that the team needs “to do the little things . . . to compete night in and night out.”
She also stresses that confidence is crucial.
“We have to know we can play with the best teams, not just think we can play with them,” Cline said.
Sophomore guards Lynn Mueller and Abby Owens add that everyone on the team shares the load of leadership, while senior captains Kate Moon and Ali Hidden pump the team up in the locker room. Additionally, Mueller said that with the depth of the team this year, there are more offensive options, so the team does not get stuck being one-dimensional.
The women’s team looks strong, and in a good position to continue a successful season, despite a tough schedule over the rest of this month. They play Monmouth, St. Norbert (twice), Ripon, Carroll and Lincoln Christian over the rest of January. Carroll currently has an overall record of 5-6 and the Fighting Scots are 6-5.