Crusader basketball is ranked No. 1 in the South Region yet again. With one loss in a 25-game season, the men have earned their rank and will be the team to watch in the ASC championship tournament that will be hosted at UMHB Feb. 24-26.
What is the secret to their success? For one, Head Coach Ken DeWeese believes that this is perhaps the tightest knit team he’s ever witnessed in over 50 years of being involved in basketball as a player and a coach.
Kitrick Bell, a sophomore communication major and forward for the Cru agrees with DeWeese about the chemistry of the team.
“We push each other every day to work as hard as we possibly can, and after we experience success we can appreciate each other that much more because we know and understand the value of the work we put in as a whole.”
Bell is a young talent who has had his fair share of the spotlight, reaching double-digit scoring on different occasions despite an injury-stricken freshman year. He is a focused player who has kept a level head about postseason play.
“It is important that we understand that now the regular season is over, and our record means nothing if we lose a game,” he said.
Reaching the end of the regular season with such success is a huge feat, and the men on this team have been on a roller coaster ride over the past five months.
Since they spend so much time together, one can see why team members are so close. Basketball has one of the longest seasons in college sports spanning over two semesters. For the Cru, it starts in October and goes through March.
“Thanksgiving, our guys are here. Everybody goes home for Christmas, but our guys are here,” DeWeese said, suggesting that the hard work and commitment speak volumes of the character and discipline of the players on the team.
Another key to their success Assistant Coach Jimmy Smith said, is the fact they are a hard team for the competition to prepare for.
“I think it’s kind of hard to really pinpoint specific (leaders) because I think a lot of our success comes from the balance of our team,” Smith said. “Different players step up every night. You never really know who’s going to score a lot day in and day out, but it’s always been somebody.”
The Cru have definitely been the team to look out for the ASC, and it’s apparent in their record. The only team to find the answer this season is McMurry, whose playing level is on par with DII as they prepare to dive into the division next year.
Neither coach could expect such a spectacular season, “I knew we were going to be really good … but on any level to play (25) games and only lose one is really difficult to do,” Smith said.
This phenomenal group of guys has plowed through the American Southwest Conference and has done so with class and with teamwork.
DeWeese is quick to give credit where it’s due and humbly lift up his team for their efforts.
“I would like to sit here and tell you that it’s all my fault. I am the reason. That’s not true; it’s the character and the ability that the players have.”
Cru basketball finished regular season play over the weekend, with an official conference record of 20-1 and undefeated at home. Coach Smith expressed that the student body has been very helpful and supportive, “We haven’t lost a home game all year and I think a lot of that has to do with the support we’ve gotten.”
The ASC tournament will be hosted at UMHB starting Friday Feb. 24. With a home court advantage the Cru will battle to come out of this tournament on top. Several teams will be looking to avenge losses from the regular season, but DeWeese and his men are out to shut them down.