Men's basketball looking for January rebound

By Daniel Kerwin

The MIAC season has begun for the men’s basketball team, but there’s really no telling at this point how Macalester will stack up against the competition. So far the team is winless in five games, including a close 67-65 loss to MIAC rival St. Mary’s on Wednesday, but there is still much basketball to be played.”While we are not expected by others to be highly competitive within the conference this year due to heavy losses to graduation and having a very inexperienced team, we are hopeful that we will surprise people by being among those teams competing for an MIAC playoff berth,” Head Coach Curt Kietzer said.

The team hasn’t finalized a set starting lineup yet, mainly the result of having retained so few regulars from last season. Certain players have shown promise in different games, but so far there hasn’t been anyone who has been able to step into the roles that were vacated with the graduation of last year’s senior class.

“It is a very different team in that we are not as experienced and have no obvious, established scoring threats,” Kietzer said. “On the plus side, I feel like we are a bit more athletic as a group than last year’s team, and hope that will translate into better defense and rebounding.”

So far the team has experienced some growing pains. There have been stretches where the team has been able to play up its strong suit and excel defensively, but there are plenty of other factors that will need to come together in order to increase the team’s competitiveness, especially offensively.

“Not surprisingly with a young team, we have had trouble handling intense ball handling pressure and in getting consistent scoring from any single player,” Kietzer said. “I believe defense and rebounding will be strengths, but early on our offensive travails have put undo pressure on our defense, not allowing us to establish ourselves there either as of yet.”

“I didn’t really know what to expect coming into the year,” Paul Richie ’10 said. “We have things to work on, but it’s early season stuff, it’s nothing that can’t be corrected.”

The lack of an established starting lineup has led to an array of players sharing playing time. Jackson Wright ’12 and Tyler Gubbrud ’12 have accumulated a lot of minutes so far as first years, but they’re not the only new players to the team that are making themselves heard on the court. There are a few upperclassmen that are playing on the team for the first time, having played on other varsity teams during their time at Macalester.

James Murray ’10, who is also a star pitcher for the baseball team, and Tyson Morgan ’09, who also runs for the track team, have been unexpected fixtures in the lineup. Morgan pulled down a team high eight rebounds against Buena Vista last week, and Murray’s scored a team high 23 points in Wednesday’s loss to St. Mary’s.

As evidenced by the close finish, it would have been highly possible for the team to start its run into the blue with a win against St. Mary’s, but the fact remains that the team still has plenty of adjustments to make to be at its most competitive.

“With such an inexperienced team, our primary goal is to get progressively better through the course of the season,” Kietzer said. “Secondarily, we hope to surprise people by competing for an MIAC playoff spot.”

The team has a perfect opportunity to work out the kinks over the winter. The players will have a quick winter break and then will return on Dec. 26 in preparation for a game on Dec. 29. The team will then be on campus throughout January playing a full slate of games, a perfect opportunity to focus on basketball without further distractions.

“I love J-term, it’s my favorite time of year,” Richie said.

“It’s all basketball with no school, it’s fun, we’re the only people on campus” Colin Keeley ’11 said.

“Hopefully, having a few weeks to concentrate primarily on basketball before classes begin again will allow us to make some significant advances as a team,” Kietzer said.

The team continues its MIAC campaign tomorrow at 3 p.m. against Hamline, and also plays home games against Bethel next Monday and St. John’s next Wednesday before winter break. Unless you’re around during break, you’ll most likely see a very different team come February.