The men’s basketball team is sitting comfortably coming off multiple victories this season (10-10 overall, 8-8 GLIAC). After a few recent stumbles again rival Walsh University (59-62), the Pioneers are still looking to make at the 2014 GLIAC tournament.
“This is our chance in the next three to four weeks, we got to go win some big games and just make it happen,” senior forward Cory Veldhuizen said.
The team set big goals this year and has taken one step at a time.
“Our first goal was to make it to the GLIAC tournament,” Veldhuizen said. “We would love more than anything to make it to nationals, but we have our eyes set on the GLIAC right now.”
This year GLIAC competition is very tight and the Pioneers have to be prepared night in and night out.
“There’s no team out there that you can sleep on this year in the south,” Veldhuizen said. “Any given night we can beat a team by 20, but the next night we can get beat by 20 if we don’t come prepared.”
Offensively, the team has excelled in the GLIAC and is currently ranked 4th in the nation in free throwing. But the players are looking towards the defense to make necessary improvements to carry the team to the tournament.
“We have a long way to go defensively and a lot of room to improve,” head coach Tim Walker said. “That’s where we have to get more consistent if we are going to win down the stretch.”
“Obviously Isiah [Elliott], Cory [Velduizen], and Christian [Graves] are scoring the ball really well, but Daniel Wise has had a great year and Vince Kazmierick has been great off the bench,” Walker said.
“I don’t think people notice Dan because he doesn’t score a lot of points every game,” Veldhuizen said. “He does the little things that go unnoticed, like taking charges and hustling for loose balls.”
Often the mark of a great team is having such depth that you never know which player’s night it is going to be.
“One of the neat things about this team is just been that there have been a lot of guys who have stepped up and contributed in different ways and different games this year,” Walker said. “It’s been somebody different all the time and that’s always fun to watch.”
Along with defense, the players are certain that communicating with each other is key to their growth as a unit.
“The key factors are defense and communication,” sophomore guard Christian Graves said. “Sometimes we don’t talk enough, but when we do talk it helps a lot with eliminating mistakes.”
The Pioneers have to be one of the top eight teams to make the GLIAC tournament and there is a sense of urgency around the squad.
“The urgency is definitely setting in now because we are in the middle of the pack and we definitely need to string together even more wins if we want to complete our goal of the GLIAC tournament,” Graves said.
The Pioneers will look to extend their win streak to four when they travel to Hillsdale College this Thursday January 30th at 8:30 p.m.
Isaiah Smith is a staff writer for The Aviso AVW.