The men’s basketball team, reigning NCCAA National Champions, are going to rely heavily on their senior leadership and new recruits as they look toward this upcoming season.
Assistant Coach Jordan Courneya said the team has a good chance of being competitive in the league this year, after finishing seventh in the PacWest last season. The team has short term goals that they set in practice every day, but ultimately, Courneya said the team would love to compete at the top of the conference.
“Our goal, just like everybody else in our department, is to win the league and we’d like to take it one day at a time and just try and go through the process of getting better and be the best team we can be completing the season,” Courneya said.
Senior Hayden Lescault, a business administration major, said the team looks stronger than they have in years.
“We are going to do really well,” said Lescault. “We have a lot of returners this year, and the new guys are going to help us out as well.”
Marek Klassen, a fifth-year athlete, is getting his MBA at PLNU. He said that a lot of the players are more experienced this year, and that can help them in their conference tournaments.
“Last year we did not perform as well when we were traveling because we’d be on the road for so long, but this year we’ll be able to handle it better because we know what to expect.”
Klassen said the team will still have to come to terms with one weakness.
“We are a bit undersized compared to other teams,” said Klassen.
Despite this, Courneya said the team presents itself as a “cohesive unit,” and that six of the team’s seven top scorers from last year returned.
“Definitely one of our strengths is experience. We have some pretty talented guards. We have an all-conference player Hayden Lescault and two other honorable mentions, Marek Klassen and Junior Morgan, who are back,” he said. “It’s just a very good team that way in terms of guard position, some good recruits coming in that will balance out some of our weaknesses from last year. We’ll have a complete team and you can’t really key in on one player. That’s kind of the best thing about our team.”
The team has no plan to come up short in conference play.
“We are a great shooting team and we can absolutely make it to postseason,” said Lescault.
Even more than that, Courneya said that the team builds its players up.
“[They’re] just a great group to coach. A fun group to coach,” Courneya said. “They compete with each other and for each other, which is very important. Our chemistry at this point has been exceptional and our staff feels that it’ll continue throughout the year. These guys have stuck with it through a season last year and we’re returning a lot of guys, it should be good for our team moving forward.”
But before postseason rolls around, they are looking to trample their biggest rival, Azusa Pacific. A majority of past games have been nail-biters. Just last March, PLNU beat Azusa 86-70. The team lost earlier games, in January and February but only by a few points, 75-74 and 87-84, respectively.
“I love to play at home, but nothing’s better than beating Azusa at Azusa,” said Lescault.
The season begins on Nov. 7 with an exhibition game against San Diego State, and the team could use fan support.
“We always love having the fans cheer us on,” said Lescault.
Katie Callahan contributed to this article.
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