With the men’s basketball team ending its season with a 6-19 record, head coach Kerry Prather is reflecting on areas that need improvement in the seasons to follow, focusing heavily on recruitment.
“It’s been a major disappointment,” Prather said.
The team re-lived a large portion of last season as far as losing a number of close games, Prather said. He said they didn’t make nearly the same amount of progress they had set out to accomplish this season.
“There’s an analytical part of this that you can say, ‘Literally if the ball had bounced differently you would have won more games,’” Prather said. “We sat down with the boys at the end of last season and said, ‘We’re so close. We’re literally a bounce away this game and double overtime this game, but a lot of improvement has to take place between now and next season because you really don’t want to be playing for that last bounce. You want to be able to win with some room to spare.’”
Prather said the technical areas that need improvement are post play, inside play and shooting, adding that the team found it difficult to score this season.
“I thought we could rebound our way out of that, but the truth is, rebounding kind of reveals competitiveness, and that is at a deficit,” Prather said.
Overall, Prather said the team was inconsistent in several aspects of the game. Aside from talent, Prather said he looks for competitiveness and genuine passion in a player, which he said the team lacked this year.
Prather said this combination of factors indicates a recruiting dilemma. Historically, the athletic department has been successful in recruitment, but the last three years have been hit-and-miss, he said.
“What you thought you had didn’t turn out to be what you really had,” Prather said.
He attributed the recruitment issue to encouraging high school players to compete at the collegiate level.
“You can play a lot of high school basketball and be marginally talented and marginally competitive, but that’s not going to work in college,” he said.
Prather explained that the players who thrive at the collegiate level are the overachievers, which he said represent a small percentage of ones who play basketball in general.
“They explode because they are driven to explode. Because they can’t imagine not becoming as good as they can,” Prather said.
The formula Prather has relied on for recruitment starts with finding a player who is talented in his skills, then ultimately determining whether there is a real competitiveness in him. From there, he said it’s a matter of banking on the players to work their tails off for four years to become as good as they can.
“I wish I knew a better formula for how to put those pieces together,” he said. “But in our sport, that’s the way it works,” he said. “This is a really competitive league. Competitive guys defend, competitive guys rebound, competitive guys cry when they lose. We’ve got to find a bigger dose of that.”
Junior John Beineke said the team has high goals for his senior year season.
“We really want to make some noise in the conference tournament and ultimately win a conference championship. I think every team is playing to be the best. We are going to work our tails off to make that happen.”