Sports / The Prairie Fire / May 16, 2020

Conversation with Coach Davis

Coach Ben Davis’ first season was successful for the struggling men’s basketball program at Knox College. The team got off to their best start (4-5) since the 2004-05 season, as well as an eight-game improvement over the previous season. Now, Davis is looking to improve off of this season. 

“We had to make the first step of just being competitive, and I think we did that, especially down the stretch in the second half of the season. I thought when we play well that we can compete with anybody in our conference, but at the same time work, we’re definitely not content with where we’re at,” Davis said.

Knox flashed that potential to be one of the best teams in the conference throughout the season, specifically in a home game against Monmouth (90-65 win) and a narrow loss on the road against Ripon (89-83 loss). The team has one of the youngest rosters in the conference, returning 16 players from last year’s team, with only four of those players becoming seniors.

Knox does have to replace a few key pieces. The Prairie Fire are losing Deryk Ruple and Zach Lowe, who combined to play 1,148 minutes as well as Bruce Gaitor and Eric Thompson. Lowe was also second on the team in scoring and first in rebounds.

“Losing those guys means they’re a lot of minutes that we’re going to have to replace. But yeah, I think there are guys on our roster that are ready to step up and play a bigger role,” Davis said.

Those players also leave voids in terms of leadership.

“Ruple brought a lot as a player and by having that experience as a captain as well. And you know, obviously Zach too- Zach is a guy that was playing 30 minutes a night for us. From a leadership standpoint or energy standpoint, I could see guys stepping up,” Davis said.

Jordan Rayner, sophomore, has been one of those guys who has taken more of a leadership role this off-season. 

“Jordan had a really good year, very talented guy. And then with on top of it, just how hard Jordan works, you can always be better. And I’ve been impressed this spring, he’s just stepped up and starting to take over a leadership role for the team. And he’s been very involved with recruits and that type of thing too. So yeah, Jordan’s bought in,” Davis said.

Davis is excited, however, for the guys that he has coming back and their ability to step in and help offset the losses from the graduating seniors. Davis talked about the improvement that sophomore Malcolm Bray made in the second half of the season, but he acknowledged that there were several guys that he can envision coming back next year ready to contribute and help the team win. 

“I can probably, I probably have you on the phone for an hour, but I can go through just what every guy on our team is,” Davis said. “I’m just excited to kind of get back to the fall and really see what guys have done over the summer. Everyone just kind of had one or two little things that they needed to improve on. So it’s like, who does that?” Davis said.

The young roster is going to get another injection of youth with another freshman class. This time around on the recruiting circuit, Davis went in with a theme in mind.

“Just another theme I had to, the incoming class was trying to bring guys in from winning programs,” Davis said. Davis wanted players from winning traditions and challenging competition that also fit what he wants the team to be offensively.

So far, Davis has recruited six freshmen for the incoming class. He’s thought about how he’s going to handle getting them accumulated to the offensive and defensive schemes if COVID-19 pushes or affects the sports calendar ever further.

“I’ve definitely put thought into if our season is affected or we’ll have to start a little bit later, you know, doing some things: whether it be a playbook or showing, showing the new guys online how, what we do,” Davis said.

Coach Ben Davis’ first season was successful for the struggling men’s basketball program at Knox College. The team got off to their best start (4-5) since the 2004-05 season, as well as an eight-game improvement over the previous season. Now, Davis is looking to improve off of this season.

“We had to make the first step of just being competitive, and I think we did that, especially down the stretch in the second half of the season. I thought when we play well that we can compete with anybody in our conference, but at the same time work, we’re definitely not content with where we’re at,” Davis said.

Knox flashed that potential to be one of the best teams in the conference throughout the season, specifically in a home game against Monmouth (90-65 win) and a narrow loss on the road against Ripon (89-83 loss). The team has one of the youngest rosters in the conference, returning 16 players from last year’s team, with only four of those players becoming seniors.

Knox does have to replace a few key pieces. The Prairie Fire are losing Deryk Ruple and Zach Lowe, who combined to play 1,148 minutes as well as Bruce Gaitor and Eric Thompson. Lowe was also second on the team in scoring and first in rebounds.

“Losing those guys means they’re a lot of minutes that we’re going to have to replace. But yeah, I think there are guys on our roster that are ready to step up and play a bigger role,” Davis said.

Those players also leave voids in terms of leadership.

“Ruple brought a lot as a player and by having that experience as a captain as well. And you know, obviously Zach too- Zach is a guy that was playing 30 minutes a night for us. From a leadership standpoint or energy standpoint, I could see guys stepping up,” Davis said.

Jordan Rayner, sophomore, has been one of those guys who has taken more of a leadership role this off-season. 

“Jordan had a really good year, very talented guy. And then with on top of it, just how hard Jordan works, you can always be better. And I’ve been impressed this spring, he’s just stepped up and starting to take over a leadership role for the team. And he’s been very involved with recruits and that type of thing too. So yeah, Jordan’s bought in,” Davis said.

Davis is excited, however, for the guys that he has coming back and their ability to step in and help offset the losses from the graduating seniors. Davis talked about the improvement that sophomore Malcolm Bray made in the second half of the season, but he acknowledged that there were several guys that he can envision coming back next year ready to contribute and help the team win. 

“I can probably, I probably have you on the phone for an hour, but I can go through just what every guy on our team is,” Davis said. “I’m just excited to kind of get back to the fall and really see what guys have done over the summer. Everyone just kind of had one or two little things that they needed to improve on. So it’s like, who does that?” Davis said.

The young roster is going to get another injection of youth with another freshman class. This time around on the recruiting circuit, Davis went in with a theme in mind.

“Just another theme I had to, the incoming class was trying to bring guys in from winning programs,” Davis said. Davis wanted players from winning traditions and challenging competition that also fit what he wants the team to be offensively.”

So far, Davis has recruited six freshmen for the incoming class. He’s thought about how he’s going to handle getting them accumulated to the offensive and defensive schemes if COVID-19 pushes or affects the sports calendar ever further.

“I’ve definitely put thought into if our season is affected or we’ll have to start a little bit later, you know, doing some things: whether it be a playbook or showing, showing the new guys online how, what we do,” Davis said.

 

Kyle Williams
Sports Editor

Tags:  Knox College knox college athletics knox college men's basketball

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