Though the mild weather would suggest otherwise, the calendar sits at mid-November, which means the beginning of the college basketball season. The roster is set and the opening game draws near, as the final basketball season in Goolrick Gymnasium is ready to get underway.
The men’s team returns this year under veteran head coach Rod Wood, but they do not return with star big man Brandon Altmann. The 6’9”, first team All-CAC juggernaut and UMW career shot block leader graduated last spring.
Yet Atmann’s departure has made room for new and remaining players to step up as the team begins their quest for a CAC title.
Key returning players include junior forward Tad Dickman (6ppg), sophomore guard Rocky Ullah (5.6ppg) junior guard Ryan Farrar (7ppg), and the lone senior Qaiser Ahmed (6.9ppg).
Joining the Eagles basketball family this year are a pair of freshmen guards, Bradley Reister and Walt Smith, as well as a couple of transfer students in junior guard Mike Harvey and sophomore guard Mike Littlejohn.
The team lost to Gardner-Webb 76-61 in an exhibition match last Saturday, Nov. 13, but Coach Wood said he wasn’t necessarily looking at the final score.
“The real outcome is getting better… if we get better every day the wins will come.” Wood said. “We played hard and the team is still learning the new system.”
With the lack of a dominant big man, the coaching staff has rearranged the offense and defense from a season ago. Last year the Eagles played with two or three men in the post, but this season they are playing without a true center.
Because of their lack of size, the Eagles offense will consist of three guards and two forwards. They will look to push the ball in an attempt to score more in transition compared to last year’s focus on a half-court game. The high tempo style of play will rely on creating turnovers and converting fast break points.
A key to every team is good leadership, but with this being such a young team and it being so early in the season, the team has yet to establish a leadership role.
“[It] Doesn’t have to be a senior and doesn’t have to be from a starter,” Wood said about a team leader. “I just want somebody to step up. [We] need accountability, one who holds others and himself accountable.”
Last years team finished 9-15, leaving them in 7th place in the CAC, one spot out of the playoffs. When asked what the most important game of the season was, Wood responded that he couldn’t key in on just one.
“Our most important games are against those six teams [that finished] ahead of us and the two teams behind us…every game is big for us,” Wood said. “Beggars can’t be choosers.”
The team is looking forward to its last season in Goolrick gymnasium with the advent of the Anderson Center, scheduled to open in May. The team’s current practice schedule is chaotic, as practice times range anywhere from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. on a given day. Not having a set practice schedule is hard on the players who have to adjust their lives accordingly. The Anderson Center will allow for a more organized routine and create a greater stir in prospective athletes.
“It’s hard to recruit a kid when his high school gym is better than Goolrick,” Wood said.
The team has two road games against St. John Fisher College and Lynchburg College before their home opener against Marymount College on Nov. 23 at 4 p.m.