By Alex Juffer
With the start of the 2009-10 basketball season less than a month away, new coach Tim Whittle brings not only experience but hope for a team that went winless last year.But the newness does not mean lack of experience. Whittle has most recently coached at Washington University in St. Louis, where as an assistant coach he helped guide the team to two Division III championships. “Coming off back-to-back National Championships, I have high expectations of how I want things done. I know the team is excited about the change and have shown they have the commitment to build a tradition of basketball at Macalester,” says Whittle. In five seasons at Washington U, Whittle helped coach the Bears to a 112-30 overall record and three consecutive Final Four appearances. Washington U reached the Final Four in 2007 and won national titles in 2008 and 2009.Whittle’s presence is already making a difference to returning team members. “I like what the coach is doing. There’s more intensity and motivation on the court,” said Kyle Hamblett ’11, who was the second-highest scorer last year, with an average of 11.7 points per game. The season doesn’t come without challenges, though, as the team has to adjust to not only a new coach but also the new system he brings with him. As Whittle says, “The team has the right attitude and the effort has been there through the first five days, but my system is new to everyone in the program. Therefore, there is a steep learning curve, but the guys have handled it very well.”The freshmen seem to be having an easier time adjusting to the new coach since they have not had to make the transition from one coach to another at the college level. “The freshmen look pretty good,” said big man Andy Bowman ’13, who at 6 feet 8 inches was the starting center for his high school team in Perry, Kansas. “It’s an easier transition for us since we didn’t learn the old system.” However, Bowman said, the transition to college is not that easy: “We’re still getting used to college level basketball.” For Whittle, a staple of a successful college-level program is “a tough team defense.” Last year, the Scots allowed their opponents an average of 78.4 points per game, compared with their 56 points. Furthermore, Whittle stressed the importance of each player taking their role on the team seriously: “Everyone on this team has a responsibility to be a leader. As we work to meet our goals, it is important for each player to understand what their role is in making the team better.” As for expectations of the team or any predictions, Whittle said, “We are taking one day at a time, one practice at a time and thus one game at a time. This team has the goal to get better everyday.”Some of the players are not quite as patient: Colin Keeley ’11, who was last year’s leading scorer with an average of 13.8 points per game, admitted that he’s looking forward to the first game of the season against Crown College and that it is “always important to get that first win.