The Crusader men’s basketball team started practice two weeks ago, and players have their eyes set on another national championship run. Although winning it all is their ultimate goal, they understand that the work they put in as a team right now is what is most important.
“This is the time of the year that is good for the coach and not good for the players,” Head Coach Ken DeWeese said, “Players hate it because there aren’t any games to prepare for, and coaches can just go and go and go. This is the time of the year that you just have to get through and remember it’s the most important learning time.”
Nine new faces will join the Cru’s squad this year, but one thing that will remain constant is the hard work that propelled the team to such a successful season last year. The newcomers have quickly learned what UMHB basketball is all about.
“The new guys are catching on quickly, and they are retaining it,” DeWeese said. “The important thing is they don’t just listen and get it done that day. They have been good about taking it from one day to the next.”
The players are excited about getting back on the court and showing what they have improved on during the offseason.
“I have worked on a ton of things over the offseason and summer to step up my game. One thing in particular would be to shoot more,” sophomore point guard Layton Zinsmeister said.
The Cru added height to their roster over the summer, which should prove to be to their advantage throughout the season. The men are currently ranked seventh in the preseason national rankings, with eight returners from the national championship game last year.
“Every team has a different personality. There are no similarities from last year to this year. Even though we have a number of guys back, there is no similarity,” DeWeese said.
Zinsmeister agrees that the makeup of this roster has completely changed.
“This team is different from last year’s team because of size advantage. Last year we were pretty small and would run. This year we have more size with some new guys, but our best offense is still getting out and running.”
The Crusaders scrimmaged Texas Lutheran University Nov. 2 and played very well with the returners and newcomers contributing to the game.
“We played hard and there were good things throughout the game, but it definitely gave us a look at what we need to work on,” senior forward Kitrick Bell said.
Losing three seniors last year, there are leadership roles needing to be filled, but the Cru know they have the right guys to step up into those roles.
“I believe I have to become more of a leader this year,” Zinsmeister said. “Point guards are the leaders on the court because the ball is in our hand most of the game. Now that I’m not a freshman anymore, I will need to step up and be more of a leader.”
The Cru will play the University of Dallas Nov. 8 to finish up their scimmages for the year.
With one scrimmage to go until the start of the season, the Cru are focused on getting better every day.
DeWeese said, “We have scrimmaged University of Dallas the last three of four years, but we don’t plan for what our opponent is going to do in a scrimmage. We approch the scrimmage only as what we are going to get out of it for us.”