The first words out of Men’s Basketball Coach Kevin Walden’s mouth when asked to describe this season summarized the struggle this season has represented for the team.
“We’re searching for consistency. We’ve been really good at times, we’ve been really bad at times, and for us to win games we have to get in the mode of always playing to our potential.”
This search for consistency is apparent during team practices.
“We’ve had a rough season so far, and of the things that can really hurt during times like that is confidence. So what we’ve strived for in the last couple weeks is to build confidence in each guy. They can play at a higher level, and need to be confident in that,” Walden said.
Walden has seen improvement in practice, but mentioned that the competitiveness of practice must start translating to games.
“If you came to one of our practices, you would think we’ve had an opposite year than what we’ve had. We come out and we play hard, with energy, we’re talkative, and we get after it,” Walden said.
Freshman guard Ryan Ricken agrees with this, saying that “the energy at practice is pretty intense, the guys there are all trying to help you improve and they keep you moving and thinking the whole practice.”
Coach Emily Cline of the Women’s Basketball team said that she can often hear the intensity and communication in the form of shouts and cheers from the Men’s practices from her office, a great point of pride for the Men’s Basketball team.
Junior wing D.J. Lewis was chosen to captain the team this season, and has made it his personal goal to do his best to help steer an admittedly young group through the choppy waters they have experienced through the early part of this season.
When asked about the possible difficulties of taking on such a leadership role, Lewis refuted the negative connotation of being a captain of a struggling team.
“I wouldn’t say it’s been difficult, it’s actually been a great privilege, and the guys make it easier just by listening to us, me and DeAndre Weathersby [the other team captain], and understanding the mutual respect we have for them and they have for us and the team as a whole.”
Lewis loves the team’s competitiveness during practice. “It gets the energy up. When you’re all quiet and no one’s really saying anything, it’s just a dead practice, you’re not gonna get the most out of guys. [We] clap it up for a good play, chatter, and it makes a noticeable difference for sure.”
When speaking about the hardest parts of the season, Lewis admitted that the season has been tough. After coming into the season with high expectations, the team has fallen short of their early goals, struggling to string together wins against their conference opponents.
“We still have a chance, with other teams in the conference not doing so well, I still see us having a chance to improve our standing,” Lewis said.
Lewis said two close games against conference foes from his past years have been his favorite moments so far.
“My favorite moments probably have to be when we beat Monmouth at the buzzer my freshman year, and when we were playing St. Norbert at home last year, and only lost by about three,” Lewis said.
As for his goals for the team, Lewis reiterated his belief in the team’s potential to play at a high level.
“I want to make the Midwest Conference Tournament. We have the talent and the guys, so I know we can do it,” he said.
“No matter what happens on the floor, in the game, in the season, or in life really, [you] just [have to] keep going and you can’t give up. If you get fouled, the game won’t stop for you, and life won’t either. Get back up.”
Lewis hopes that the team is able to do just that over the rest of the season.
With plenty of games left to play, the Men’s Basketball team is determined to prove that its intense practices will catapult their squad into contention for the conference tournament.