Every year, the men’s basketball team takes the court to begin a new season. However, this year is a little different.
Last spring the Cru was crowned the American South-west Conference Champions for the first time in history.
With an overall record of 24-4 last season, the team advanced to second round playoffs in the NCAA Division III National Championships, and at one point were ranked 4th in the nation. After such a successful season, players have a lot to live up to, and every team wants to dethrone them.
The Cru is led by head coach Ken DeWeese, who has now been with the program for 11 seasons.
When asked how they cope with the pressure of everyone trying to take their title, he responded, “We enjoy it. We are proud of our accomplishment and intend to work hard to repeat.”
Even with the loss of a few key players, the team is still expected to be at the top of its game.
Junior guard Zane Johnston said, “Our team is very athletic this year. We lost a lot in Ryan Burgart, Matt Dickey and Neiman Ford. Those guys brought great leadership and intensity to every game. This year’s team is very similar, and we hope to have the same success as last season.”
However, the Cru has faced some early season hardships. The team began with a 0-3 stretch, falling to Southwestern University, Trinity University and UT Dallas.
Senior wing David Ray said, “The last three games have been very uncharacteristic for us. We have not been playing team defense the way we usually do, and it is reflected by the amount of points we are giving up each game.”
Although the start of the season has been a little rocky, the morale of the players remains high. They bounced back with a win over the University of the Ozarks Dec. 1.
It was a commanding victory of 83-69.
The Cru dedicated more than half their practice to team defense, which carried over to the conference game.
The men are on the road for the next two matches against East Texas Baptist University and LeTourneau University. Neither game is more important than the other.
“Our conference is tough,” Johnston said, “There really aren’t any easy games. Everyone comes ready to play; so we focus on one game at a time.”
After clenching the first conference victory, the team plans to continue its goal of winning the NCAA national championship.
“Competitive, collegiate student-athletes must face adversity every day in practice, in every game and during the entire season,” DeWeese said. “How one deals with adversity is a true indication of their competitiveness and their true character.”
The Crusader basketball team will host three other schools in the Cru Holiday Classic Dec. 29-30.