The men’s basketball team is preparing for a great 2011-2012 Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference season.
With the return of the teams starting lineup and the new addition of strong fresh talent, the Leopards have high hopes for an outstanding season.
“Our first goal is every single day we practice, we want to make sure that we are improving as individuals,” head coach Richard Reed said.
“Our second goal is to get in the top four of our conference, to play in the conference tournament.”
Last season the team finished 8-6 in SCIAC.
Postseason honors were awarded to senior forward Austin Napolitano, who made First Team All-SCIAC, and senior forward Trevor Woodland, who made Second Team All-SCIAC.
“With age comes experience and last year we were in a lot of close games and since we had not been there yet we didn’t know what to do, but now that we’ve experienced it we know what to expect,” Napolitano said.
Trevor Woodland is already averaging 20 points per game early in the preseason.
“Trevor is going to be big this year,” junior point guard Jake Vieth said.
Despite the team’s current 0-3 stance in the preseason, they take the present competition as challenges that get them ready for what is to come from tough competitors like the Claremont Stags and Redlands Bulldogs
“We realize it’s early in the season, what happens now doesn’t make our season,” Vieth said. “Conference is all that matters, this is just preparing us for that.”
Forward Mychal Thomas was the only senior graduate from the team last season, so many of the team’s leaders are still present along with new ones.
The Leopards have welcomed one new transfer and three incoming freshman to their roster.
“This is the best incoming class we’ve had in a while,” Vieth said.
Unlike many teams whose sole standout players tend to be juniors or seniors, the men’s basketball team has a great variety across the board that all contribute to the success as a whole.
“Expect a good year from Brett Stephan and Jourdan Simmonds, “ senior point guard John Leggett said.
Stephan is a returning sophomore guard who shocked fans as a freshman with his shooting.
Simmonds is an incoming freshman point guard who has showcased impressive defense and skillful ball handling.
Right now the team is working hard in practice to better their weaknesses that could hold them back from achieving team goals.
“A weakness right now is our snowball effect,” Vieth said. “When one thing goes wrong everything goes bad.”
“We’re trying to get back to the basics,” senior forward Jonathan Bastos said. “Get back to playing defense and playing like we did the previous years.”
The team will not only need to fix their weaknesses but also adapt new elements into their game to counteract what their opponents are going to do.
“The biggest thing I find enjoyable with this group is our will to accomplish whatever goals we set forth,” Reed said. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint, we have some time to get some of these things taken care of.”
With only nine home games this year it is important to the team that fans, the student body, faculty and staff come out and support.
“We need Frantz Athletic Court to be a tough place for opponents to play, be loud, and be proud, and be positive,” Reed said.
La Verne currently holds an 0-3 record.
The Leopards are playing in this weekend’s 64th Annual Lee Fulmer Tournament at Redlands.
La Verne returns home at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 7 when they take on American Sports University.
Alyssa Cole can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.