The Macalester Men’s Basketball team has seen perhaps more than its fair share of lean times. Between 2008 and 2012, the Scots won a scant five games, a stretch that included two seasons without a single win in the MIAC. This statistic, however, doesn’t communicate just how difficult it is to win a basketball game in the MIAC, which boasts the sixth-best national tournament record since 2007, the third best record against non-conference opponents in 2015-16 and the 2016 national champion in St. Thomas.
In this ultra-competitive environment, the Scots are starting to thrive. In their past three games, they’ve taken two victories and lost the third by three points after a back-and-forth final 12 minutes. This gives them six wins, matching their best totals from the previous decade and putting them in position to have their best season since 2006-07, when the Scots won 11 games.
Men’s basketball now finds themselves looking both backwards and forwards. As the team discovers its identity, the legacy of the Scots of the early 2000s looms large. This bygone edition of the team is discussed with an air of reverence; their achievements include a win over Yale (yes, that Yale) in 2001 and a trip to the MIAC final in 2004. Nonetheless, these Scots are more concerned with their future than a distant past.
Michael Gutierrez ’19 is a big part of why the Scots are bullish about what comes next. A guard from Stillwater, MN, Gutierrez was recently named to D3Hoops.com’s Team of the Week. He says the turning point for this season came after a loss at St. Johns, where a post-game team meeting led to a new attitude amongst players. “If you act like you know how to win, wins are gonna come,” he said. “Ever since then, we’ve held our heads a little higher and towards the end of the stretch we’re a lot more calm and we’re able to finish games.”
Despite leading the team in points by over 100, Gutierrez is quick to talk about how well his teammates are playing, especially Kareem Ismail ’17, who received D3Hoops.com honors the week after Gutierrez did. “We’re not a team of one person. More than one person can play well and we can feed off of that, which is exciting,” he said. Moreover, he’s just one part of a youth movement in the Mac locker room that also includes Wyatt Ferm ’19 and Isaac Siegel ’19, who are both averaging eight points a game.
Looking ahead, Gutierrez thinks that every game is important and winnable. “The exciting thing about the MIAC is no game is out of reach,” he said, recounting the Scots’ near-victory over St. Thomas last season. He points to games against Carleton College (at home on February 8) and at Hamline University (February 18) as key matchups, but stresses that each game is important to the team.
The main difference between the new Scots and the old? “Slowly but surely, we’re learning how to win,” Gutierrez said. As this team comes of age, don’t be surprised if the close losses turn into big wins.