As winter approaches, so does the collegiate basketball season. With high hopes for this upcoming season, both Charlie Brock and Naomi Graves are expecting big things out of their players this year. The 2013-14 season brought high hopes for the future for the Pride with a NEWMAC title for the women’s team and the men’s team falling just short of one last year.
Coming off a 20-8 season last year and entering his 17th season as head coach, Coach Charlie Brock is feeling hopeful for the upcoming season.
“There’s some cautious optimism, that comes from the fact that we have five seniors in mix. With that said, we have five new guys, three true freshmen as well,” commented Brock.
He didn’t, however, “downgrade” his freshmen players.
“They’re good players, but it will take them some time to get into the flow, and get comfortable with our system.” Brock said.
The true freshmen basketball players consist of three players, starting with guard Andrew McNulty, forward Brendan Eckles, and forward Steven Young, who bring a promising future to the basketball team.
Captain Sean Martin is looking forward to his senior season as well.
“I have high expectations for this season, and for the team. We are returning a lot of our core players and have brought in a lot of talented freshmen and transfers,” Martin said.
Martin averaged 11.8 points per game last season and shot an impressive 49.8 percent from the field. As he looks for those numbers to increase, he looks out more for his team.
“I think this is the year we bring home a NEWMAC championship in basketball,” Martin added.
It’s Martin’s second year as captain, and his leadership role is improving quite nicely.
“It’s easy to be a leader on the team that is full of guys willing to listen and work hard.” said Martin. “I feel ready for this season and ready to take this team as far as we can go.”
The second year captain is expected to see 100 percent out of the team, and is ready to win. Martin and Brock both believe the freshmen have high potential for the team.
“It could get to the point where we start both Eckles and Tim Swenson which would give us a big team, and helps Brandon because he can learn from him, instead of being thrown out into the fire.” Brock said.
First-year, Eckles, will be seeing a lot of minutes in his first year, which will only benefit him in the long run. With the team averaging a total of 37.9 rebounds a game, compared to the conference average 36.0 rpg, the more height the merrier.
With a 20-8 season in the past, Brock is looking straight ahead for what this team can do.
“Last year was real interesting; we lost Josh Altman early in the beginning stages of the season and he played a big role. We weren’t sure how it was going to impact the season,” Brock said. “Our guys sucked it up, went after it, and we had a great year.”
Alongside Coach Brock, Coach Naomi Graves prepares herself for the 2014-15 season as well. Just two seasons ago, the women Pride had a losing record of 4-20 on the year, but Graves is very optimistic, and she has every right to be after turning things around so quickly. Coming off a NEWMAC conference title, the women’s basketball team is ready to defend their title.
“I’m expecting us to pick up where we left off last year, our cohesion and chemistry define themselves by certain principles,” Graves said.
The women’s team excelled in rebounding, defense, and balanced scoring. Only allowing an opponent field goal (FG) percentage of 33.8 percent, and averaging a total of 41.6 rebounds per game; numbers never lie.
The women’s team only lost one senior. Along with the men, they have promising future as well.
“We lost one player, and I brought in four great freshman to add to the mix,” Graves said.
The freshmen Heather King, the Brent twins (Carli, and Christa), and LeeAnn Downs are ready to learn, and take their game to a new level.
“We were very young last year, mainly all freshmen and weren’t expected to win,” Graves said. “We were seeded six last year and turned it around and won the NEWMAC title.”
After winning the conference title, everybody wants a piece of the team. After all the conditioning and practice that they’ve been working on for two-plus hours a day, the odds seem to be in their favor.
“Last year, anything would’ve been awesome; but this year, the expectations are much higher,” Graves said.
Heather King, one of the core four freshmen, is used to being under pressure.
“The captains know a lot about the game, and they’re easy to talk to and communicate with,” King said. “Everybody trusts them with their decisions.”
King, the 5’11 forward will be seeing plenty of minutes on the court this year. “We know what we have to improve on for the season, and we’re looking to win another conference title,” King said.
Graves works her players six days a week including lift sessions after practice.
“We work on everything in practice, offense, defense and so forth. As of right now, I just want a good comfort level in our offensive system with everybody.” Graves said.
The defense is solely man-to-man, so it’s straightforward for the team. “I’m really just excited and anxious to finally start playing again and defend the NEWMAC title.” Graves said, it’s been a long summer and after a great season, the fuel is ready to take action on the court.
As basketball season finally approaches for colleges around the world, the fans get ready to cheer as loudly as ever in the stands. Springfield College takes pride in both their men and women’s team, giving everybody something to root for.
The men’s season-opener is Tuesday, Nov. 18 where they will take on rival Western New England at 7:30 p.m. The women’s season also begins on Nov. 18 against Western New England at 5:30 p.m.