By Nick Nelson
With the ball in his court and the season hanging in the balance, University of Mary Washington men’s basketball Coach Rod Wood made the decision to have his players try out a second time to earn their spots on the floor at game time.
Making good on his promise to make changes if needed, Wood did what had to be done, moving one player to the inactive roster, but was quick to explain that the playe, who he did nt name, is still a part of the team.
“He still practices, he works film of the games and works with the team, he just doesn’t play,” Wood said.
“And that’s not to say this he is cut. He’s still a part of the team,” Wood said. “He still has a redeeming value. He’s a great kid, he’s just not progressing the way he needs to. I hope he gets it soon.”
The coach explained his logic behind the recent roster shakeups, saying that he thought some of the players needed a little more motivation.
“Sometimes guys start to seem too comfortable, like their place on the team is secure, and that’s not automatically the case.”
Senior forward Kiernan Whitworth and senior guard Matt Hale upon being asked about the topic, both declined to comment on their status with the team or any other changes to the active roster.
Currently, the team has 15 players on the active roster, including seven guards, five forwards and three centers. They are a squad deep with experience, with only six players at freshman or sophomore status.
The men’s basketball team hit early season struggles, winning their opener against Arcadia University by an 82-77 margin, but losing the next three games against Franklin and Marshall, North Carolina Wesleyan and Shenandoah, the last of which was a heartbreaking 75-73 loss in overtime.
“I run my team like any other coach in the country, and that’s by running my roster on an ongoing basis,” Wood said. “Once your team is set, you hope it’s actually set, but be it from injuries or whatever, you’re going to be losing people on and off all season long.”
After trading wins and losses for much of the season, the team stands at 9-7 overall and 6-2 in the Capital Athletic Conference, placing them in third place behind Wesley College and St. Mary’s College ,respectively.
When asked about the subject, Wood said that he anticipates further cuts if necessary, but reiterated that he is not dissatisfied with the way his players have been behaving or performing off the court.
“These are good kids,” Wood said. “They’re not getting in trouble with the law, they’re not breaking rules, they’re just not progressing athletically. Kids get it at different times, and if there are players who aren’t learning quick enough, they’re taking reps away from those are getting it faster or need it more.”
Wood then explained what he looks for in his players.
“I want my guys to be good academically, athletically, and socially. Like anywhere else, there’s a social contract. If you break that, there are repercussions,” Wood said.
“But once you’re on my team, I want you there forever. Just like you’re alumni of the University of Mary Washington for the rest of your life once you graduate, once you’re on my team, you’re on my team.”
The team has gone 4-2 in the month of January, and won their most recent game 73-54 on the road against Stevenson University. The team played a game on Wednesday against rival Salisbury that ended past this publication’s deadline. They will have a three-game Capital Athletic Conference road trip against Hood College, York College, and Gallaudet University before returning home to face St. Mary’s College Feb. 11.