By Gage Nutter
For the first time since March, Springfield men’s basketball was back on the hardwood this week.
The Pride held its first day of tryouts in Dana Gym on Monday night. The tryout lasted two hours and consisted of scrimmages, dribbling drills, passing drills and shooting drills.
After months of not competing for the maroon and white, players were happy to finally get back in Dana Gym and play ball.
“It feels good [to be back],” said junior standout Jake Ross. “It’s a different vibe in a sense for the returners. We have a good foundation coming back. It’s exciting to be back, but it will really start to feel like practice once we have the team solidified.”
Coming into last season, the team did not lose any players to graduation. This season, the team is without the leadership of Brandon Eckles, Ben Diamond and Andy McNulty.
Junior Heath Post has always been a vocal leader, but he understands that he might have to alter his leadership style in some ways now that he is looked at as an upperclassman leader.
“Leadership-wise I definitely see myself having to step into the teacher role with the younger guys,” said Post. “Just teach them what we are doing and why we do it. Just helping them understand how we play Springfield College basketball.”
Senior center Kevin Durkin was the only missing player for the first day of tryouts. The fourth-year big man is nursing an injury and didn’t participate as a precaution. He is expected to be back fully in the next few weeks.
Guards Kendall Baldwin and Charlie Clay both wore facemasks in the tryout as they recover from injured noses. Both players sustained the injuries while playing basketball a few weeks ago. Both of them appeared to be full participants in the tryout.
Head coach Charlie Brock is still nursing a foot injury he sustained during the summer. When asked how he plans to keep up with the players during practice, he said, “They’re going to have to keep up with me.”
Good to see Brock is already in mid-season form.
Baldwin sustained a leg injury during tryouts last season. As the season progressed, the injury continued to give him issues. Eventually, the idea of sitting the whole year started to seem like the smartest course of action.
After missing all of last season, he was excited to finally be back on the court with his teammates.
“It feels great to be back out there with the guys,” said Baldwin. “Just getting back into the swing of things. I’m excited for the season. I learned a lot last year and I’m ready to apply it into this year.”
Due to his injury, Baldwin wasn’t able to contribute to the team’s incredible run to the national semifinals last season. Now, back healthy, he wants to help the team get back to that point in any way he can.
“I was there and know what the guys went through for preparations and games,”
Said Baldwin. “It’s definitely my goal to help get us back to the same spot and finish it.”
The trio were pleased with their individual performances in their first day.
“It [tryouts] was really good. I’m feeling pretty confident,” said Costa. “Just have to come back tomorrow and do the same thing.”
The freshmen have been able to play pickup basketball with most of the team the last few weeks and get acclimated with each other’s tendencies, but in their first taste of organized college basketball, there is a slight adjustment period that must be endured.
“[I’m] pretty tired,” said Winston. “It’s a different game from pickup to organized basketball, it [tryouts] was tiring. Just getting into shape and into the gym and hearing the coaches voices and interacting with them was fun. It got me excited for moving forward.”
Lane agreed that the energy level coming into college is much different than high school.
“The speed of the game is a lot different,” said Lane. “It is definitely more involved. You’re never standing around. You’ve got to be ready to move.”
Lane, as a guard, hopes to learn from some of the veteran shooters on the team throughout the season on how he can move without the ball more effectively.
“I’m learning from the guys ahead of me like Trey [Witter] and Cam [Earle],” said Lane. “They do that extremely well. That’s what I’m looking to learn from them.”
All players that attended the tryout were split into four teams. In the second half of the tryout, all four teams played each other once to see how the players stacked up against one another.
In the first half of the period, junior standout Jake Ross took on more of a distribution role. He cut into the paint and found teammates open in the corner, or he orchestrated the offense to make men get open. In the second half of the scrimmage period, he started to take a more aggressive attitude towards offense and drained some of his patented turnaround jumps shots and pull-up jumpers.
Sophomore guard Charlie Clay was the most vocal in this portion of the tryout. He kept his presence on the court felt with his constant communication to teammates. In between yelling out screens and movements to teammates, he made a couple of three-pointers and had a few pretty passes in the period.
Freshman Daryl Costa showed from the start of the period that he has a nice touch along the outside of the arc. He coupled his shooting ability with flashes of ball-handling prowess at times as well.
Springfield will take to Blake Arena for day two of tryouts on Tuesday.