The PLNU Men’s Basketball team is ready to start the 2017-18 season in the same way that they finished the 2016-17 season.
The team found themselves digging a hole early last year due to learning a new style of play under first year Head Coach Ryan Looney. Because of this, they weren’t able to completely recover from the slow start the way they hoped. Going 17-13 last year, and 11-9 in conference play, Coach Looney expects a lot more from his team this coming year. “We would hope to be much improved from a year ago,” he said. “We really struggled early in the season last year but then finished really well, so we’re just trying to immediately pick up where we left off.”
With the team only losing five seniors out of a total of 16 players on the roster, the team chemistry is still strong going into this season. “I think everybody has high expectations and really wants to win this year, so when you have a common goal, it really brings people together, and I think the team is really tied together this year,” said junior guard Tanner Nelson.
When it comes to rivalries, there are a few teams that they feel they need to defeat in order to get to where they want to be: strengthening their own abilities, as well as gaining wins within the conference. “Cal Baptist, Azuza Pacific, Concordia, Dixie State, those ones have a little more of a rivalry feel than maybe any of the others would,” said Coach Looney.
PLNU as a team last year averaged 74.9 points a game, shooting 45.8 percent from the field, and 33.3 percent from the three-point line. Also averaging 38.7 rebounds and 14.4 assists a game, the team hopes to improve upon these stats offensively, as well work harder on the defensive side of the floor.
Coach Looney has faith in his players’ ability to perform at a higher level this upcoming season. Junior Josh Rodriguez, the starting point guard for PLNU, is coming off making a Pacific West Conference All-Conference team last year, averaging 15.2 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 5.7 assists a game. “We’re expecting big things from him,” said Coach Looney.
Sterling Somers, who was the Freshman of the Year in the Pacific West Conference last season, averaged 9.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 1.2 assists a game. “We think he can take the next step,” Coach Looney said.
There are also a few new transfers that will become part of the puzzle this year. Nelson is no stranger to the Pacific West Conference, earning Third Team All-Conference as a sophomore last season averaging 16.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 2.8 assists a game for BYU-Hawaii. Another junior transfer, forward Preston Beverly, averaged 19 points and eight rebounds a game for Montana State a season ago, earning First Team honors in the Big Sky Conference. Also transferring as a junior, center Ziggy Satterwhaite from North Idaho College averaged 14.3 points and 8.3 rebounds a game with a 62.0 shooting percentage last season. He was given Second Team honors in the Northwest Athletic Conference.
The team has not yet officially named any team captains for this coming year, but Coach Looney said they will be announced shortly before the first game. The first PLNU Men’s Basketball game is an exhibition against Westcliff on Saturday, Oct. 28, in the Golden Gymnasium at 4 p.m.