Men’s basketball learns from struggles, looks to future

By Charlie Stanton

It’s safe to say that the Macalester men’s basketball team has had a bad year. A record of 1-21 with three games left in the regular season speaks for itself. Record-wise, this team has hit rock bottom. That being said, the Scots are incredibly young and have a lot of potential for the future. They have one of the best players in the MIAC, Pierce Peters ’13, and many of the sophomores and freshmen have logged a significant number of minutes this season. “We are a very young team with only one senior, four juniors, three sophomores and four freshmen, so every day is a learning experience both in practice and in games,” third-year head coach Tim Whittle said. In theory, the team’s record should improve significantly next year. The entire starting lineup will be returning and the class of 2016 should also give them a boost. Forward and occasional shooting guard Pierce Peters is undoubtedly one of the most talented players in the MIAC and fortunately, the Scots have him for one more year. Peters recently became the 19th player in MAC men’s basketball history to surpass 1,000 points. “Making the 1,000 point club is nice, but it was never really a goal of mine. Getting wins through good team play is more important and much more fun than individual success,” said Peters. He was also named to the Capital One Academic All-District First Team this week. His sense of selflessness is reminiscent to Boston Celtics star forward, Kevin Garnett, who he says he used to imitate as a young player. “Pierce is the most complete player in the conference because he can score in a variety of ways – posting up, off the dribble, making jump shots and getting to the free throw line. Not to mention, he rebounds the ball, blocks shots and can match up defensively with guards and post men,” added Whittle. Raising the number of wins per season is obviously the goal, but Whittle is still trying to build the pillars that create a successful Division III basketball program. A main focus is trying to build a basketball “family” that is sustainable with players who understand each other and can play together. Whittle came to Macalester from one of the most successful Division III basketball programs in the country at Washington University in St. Louis. He knows what must happen in order for Macalester basketball to thrive. Whittle had always used parts of the Wash U offense that he learned under his mentor, Mark Edwards, but the team caught the injury bug throughout the season. Due to the injuries, many players had to switch from their natural positions to new ones. Whittle implemented a true motion offense and taking care of the ball became a high priority. It may have been a priority, but the Scots averaged 15.4 turnovers a game. In 21 of their 22 games, the Scots had as many or more turnovers than their opponent. That statistic would be far more meaningful if we knew the number of points the opponents scored off of those turnovers. Regardless, reducing the number of turnovers will be a priority for the Scots going into next season. There are also positives to take out of this season. “Our greatest strength is our fight. It can be difficult to continue to fight when the odds are against you often,” forward Lamont Diggs said. “The fact that we have guys willing to buy into the program and looking to do something positive for Macalester men’s basketball says a lot about the players and the endurance and persistence we have.” The pillars are starting to form for Macalester basketball, but improvement isn’t going to happen overnight. After this season, the only place to go is up. The experience and level of talent will be higher next season. Don’t sleep on the Scots, folks — they will be back for more.