By JOSH JOHNSON
With a team that has two freshmen and two sophomores rounding out its starting roster, 10 new players and no returning starters, the Eagles are scrambling to salvage a season that, just a few months ago, looked promising.
Injuries have devastated the team. Starting point guard, junior Walt Smith, is out for the season with a torn ACL he suffered in an exhibition game, and current starting point guard Marcellus Holly is playing sparingly while attempting to recover from two broken toes.
Six players missed all of the preseason and three will not be returning. The Eagles will have several players returning to eligibility following holiday break, including sophomore Sean Armstrong and junior C.J. Willis.
In all, the Eagles will try to replenish throughout the season, as there are over eight players who are expected to return, four of whom were projected starters.
In the games against Hampden-Sydney, Shenandoah, York and Maryland Bible over the Thanksgiving break, the team went 2-2.
“We didn’t play as well as we should, it was the first tournament though,” said junior guard Bradley Riester.
Men’s Basketball Coach Rod Wood is hopeful, since many young players who otherwise would not have seen significant playing time will now learn the system and get significant minutes, which could result in a very deep team down the stretch. Regarding the team’s immediate future, “It depends on how fast they pick up the system; only two guys have even played for me before,” said Wood.
Players echoed his sentiments. ”We’re young, it’s early in the season, and there are a lot of new players. It’s a process; we just need to focus on getting better every day,” said junior point guard Marcellus Holly.
Though inexperience will be the Eagles’ biggest challenge, they believe they can overcome it.
“Inexperience can easily be overcome by working hard in practice, paying attention and listening to Coach Wood,” said Holly.
The team is trying to unite as they seek a decent record, though this may be an obstacle with so many young or new players.
“We’re still learning how everybody plays. As we go on, we will get better with time,” said Holly.
The team seems to think they can grow as the season progresses.
“We really just need to have perseverance throughout the season, the ups and downs, and not quit. It’s a long season, so we really need to just stick with it,” said Riester.
The team can improve on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.
“Defense can be improved early on,” said Wood. “Offense takes a long time to get right. If you aren’t playing great on offense, then you’re probably going to have to play defense.”
The team will look to players like Riester, sophomore Taylor Johnson, freshman Lamont Fields and the injured-but-still-playing Holly to provide leadership as they move forward.
“Leadership by committee is what this team is going to be about this year,” said Wood. The players voiced similar opinions. “Everyone needs to pick each other up, do their roles, and do the little things every day that makes them better,” said Holly.
The team will play 25 regular season games before the conference championship. Winning the CAC championship is still the team’s primary goal. “We want to win the CAC championship and go to the NCAA tournament. We lost in the CAC championship game last year,” said Riester.
The team will have nine home games this year, with the next one on Dec. 1 against Frostburg State.
“Playing at home is a big advantage for us when the student body really turns out,” said Wood. “Hopefully, they will come out this year and really get behind this team.”