Scots pushing for position

By Patrick Murphy

Although Macalester men’s basketball team has struggled to a record of 2-21, this is not to say that this season has been a lost cause. Throughout his first year of coaching at Macalester, Tom Whittle’s team has been making adjustments in their style of play, taking them farther and father away from last year’s winless season.Whittle took over the reins at Mac this past offseason, leaving behind the positions of assistant coaching and recruiting coordinator at national powerhouse Washington University St. Louis, (MO). During his five-year stay at Wash U, the team went 112-30 and won a pair of back-to-back national championships in 2008 and 2009.

The team’s improvement is inspiring, but Whittle and the players know that with the effort they have put in, they are capable of more.

“This year has been a real challenge,” said Whittle. “The team sees the hard work and dedication we have put in this year, but we have yet to taste real success.”

In every sport, but basketball especially, a coaching change leads to a completely new style of play, which can be a difficult adjustment initially. Coach Whittle acknowledged this saying, “there has understandably been a lot of uncertainty in decision-making, which has led to turnovers.”

The team has averaged nearly 19 turnovers a game, which has hindered the offense from finding its rhythm. As the season has gone on, though, the team has started to put Whittle’s offensive strategies into action, leading to an effective improvement in play.

“The team now knows how I want things,” said Whittle, “and we have finally found our confidence the last few weeks. Our recent strong play reflects this confidence in our system and each other.”

“Everyone has bought into what they are teaching us,” said forward Patrick Piepkorn (’12). “As the year has progressed, we have continually learned the flow of the offensive and defensive schemes. As time passes, I have no doubt we will continue to improve as players and as a team.”

Offensively, the team is led by forward Pierce Peters (’13), forward Colin Keeley (’11), guard Kyle Hamblett (’11), and forward Gerry Kraus (’10). As a freshman, Peters has led the team in scoring, blocks and steals, averaging 10.5 points a game, with 15 blocks and 26 steals on the season. =-

“Pierce plays great defense and attacks the hoop well,” Piepkorn said of his teammate. “He’s a lot of fun to play with.”

Keeley has been second in scoring, averaging 9.8 points a game, and has led the team in rebounds, grabbing six a game. Hamblett has average 7.9 points a game to go along with 36 assists on the year. Kraus, one of the senior leaders of the team, along with guard Paul Richie, has led the team in minutes played and offensive rebounds.

As the team looks to finish off the season on a positive note, they remain optimistic about next season.

“We have been laying the foundation for something special this season and every member of the program has bought into it,” said Whittle, “Now the tone has been set and the team understands where I have set the bar.”

Piepkorn agreed, saying, “Given the huge strides that the team has made this year, I am very excited for the future of Mac basketball.