by Adnan Basic
After a record breaking season last time out, the men’s basketball team here at Roosevelt is set to only further improve off past successes going toward the future.
Last year was an historic one for the Lakers in a number of ways. The school record for regular season wins was smashed, ending up at an impressive 26-8 after a perfect 9-0 start. That helped the team become the first one in Roosevelt history to make NAIA National Tournament, but the dream season came to a sudden end with a first round loss to Southwestern College.
However, that is now in the past, and the team must focus on the present and future. It hasn’t been the best start to the year this time out, as the Lakers have taken three losses in their opening three contests. It started off in heartbreaking fashion, as Roosevelt lost to Indiana University Northwest by a single point after missing with a last second shot at the buzzer. The next game was always going to be tough, as the team took on 8th ranked Marian University in Indiana, and just could not deal with the firepower of the opposition at the end of the day. The final contest of the stretch came against another ranked side in Bethel College, who survived a late run by the Lakers to hold them off and pick up the win.
The players recognize it’s far from all doom and gloom, and have learned a lot about their team from the opening to the year.
“I’ve learned that we have a lot of potential,” said senior hospitality and sports management major Kevin Day. “We have a lot of really good players that once we all buy in to our system we are going to be a force to be reckoned with. Having nine new guys and seven returners makes it tough to all be on the same page so early in the season, but we will get it figured out.”
The good news is the team is set to play a number of home games at the Goodman Center, with matchups on Nov. 16, 17 and 20, allowing Roosevelt students plenty of opportunities to watch their Lakers on the court.
The youth of this team has made it difficult early on, and has lead to some growing pains. With over a third of the team being freshman this year, Head Coach Joe Griffin realizes it will take time for chemistry to build and results to follow.
“Most freshmen have a learning curve as to how hard you have to play at the college level and how important it is to communicate,” Griffin said. It’s not all bad of course, as there are a number of advantages to having a young roster. “They do bring a freshness to the team. They are a like a blank canvas in that the coaches and upperclassmen can mold, shape, and influence.”
With all that considered, the Lakers are still motivated to reach the heights of last year once again. “The goal is to win the conference and make it back to the national tournament,” said team manager and sophomore business management major Matty Robinson. “We have a great group of guys and I believe we have the depth and the talent to do so this year.”
The Lakers will be competing in the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC) this season. Roosevelt did quite well last season in conference play, going 15-5 and ending the regular season as the No.2 seed. The team with the best record was Governors State, who went on to win the CCAC postseason tournament after beating Roosevelt in the final. Conference play starts on Nov. 20 for the Lakers, who will face off against Olivet Nazarene University.
“We have a couple of teams we have to be ready for when we cross their path. Robert Morris, Saint Xavier, and Trinity International usually have good teams on a yearly basis,” said Robinson.
“In our conference, every opponent is going to be tough. Our biggest games are always against Governor’s State. Those are always the intense rivalry games that growing up you look forward to experiencing in college,” said Day.