After posting an 11-14 record last season, the Men’s basketball team is hungry to taste the playoffs this season. Entering his seventh season at the helm, Head Coach Matt Nadelhoffer sees differences in his team this year. These differences may result in the Eagles soaring through the MAC this season.
“The difference is like night and day from this year to last,” Nadelhoffer said. “Last year’s team had a number of veterans [seven seniors] that had been with the program for four years. This year’s team is young, and, as a result, there is enthusiasm and excitement.”
Eastern welcomes 11 players who were not on the roster last season. Of those 11, six are first years.
“We are learning about each other through practice, through trial and error and through a lot of instruction in practice,” Nadelhoffer said.
Players are also looking forward to the upcoming season. Switching from the PAC to the MAC is like a fresh start to the returning players. Still, the returnees are not expecting the new league to be any easier.
“I am expecting a tougher league from top to bottom,” said junior Jason Reels, the team’s leading scorer last season. “Every night is going to be a battle.”
Nadelhoffer is prepared for the high level his first years will bring. “I am prepared for ups and downs due to mental grind for all the freshmen,” Nadelhoffer said. “I expect we will compete for every possession; we will play for one another; and we will believe in each other.”
“Our team chemistry is building every day,” first-year guard Martin Soaries said. “The returnees have done a great job showing us the ropes and encouraging us.”
The veterans remember having their season go down to the wire which did not allow them to make the playoffs last year.
“All the returnees remember everything about the last game of last season, and we never want to experience that again,” Reels said. “That has definitely been motivation for us to work hard and improve as individuals and as a team so we can prevent that from happening again this season.”
Sophomore guard Derek Wright agrees. “As a team, I’m expecting us to get better game by game and build and have fun,” Wright said. “I think we need to play outstanding defense and play together and play smart.”
Playing smart will be key for the Eagles to win the MAC, but everything will come from practicing.
“In order for us to win the MAC Championship, we are going to have to defend, trust each other, and work hard in practice,” Reels said.
Nadelhoffer is going to take the season one game at a time and worry about the league games when that time arrives.
“Winning the MAC is the furthest thing from my mind at this point,” he said. “My focus for this team is to be better each day as a team, as individuals, as students, in our relationships and in basketball.”
With the talent the Eagles have, a MAC championship can easily be in sight, but it won’t be handed to them.
“No matter what you have done in the past or what you have on paper, it means nothing,” Nadelhoffer said. “Nobody is going to hand you anything in life, and you have to go out and earn it or get it.”