2015-16 Men’s Basketball Season Preview

JAMES MIRANDA, Sports Editor

The Pace Men’s Basketball team is looking to create better memories this season through hard work, cohesion, toughness, and resiliency.

It’s been a long road since last season. The team is a confident bunch that is itching to get rid of that chip on their shoulder left from a season only defined as a “perfect storm of tough circumstances.”

The Setters were 5-23 overall in 2014-15. They had a home record of 3-11 and were 2-11 on the road. They salvaged one win against the NE-10 with nine losses. Their field goal percentage was .38 percent (609-1592) with a 28 percent (761-1613) 3-point percentage, and their defense struggled allowing 2068 points against.

“I think we had a very young team last year, a lot of new pieces, and we got bit by the injury bug a little bit,” said Head Coach Matt Healing, who’s in his first year as head coach. “[The team] didn’t really gel as well as I would have liked us to. Midway through last year we were 4-10 and then we lost our top four players and it spiraled out of control.”

It was a constant pounding against the Setters. They felt they were getting blown out every game. Opponents scored 1014 and 1054 points in the first and second half of games, respectively.

However, they’re not focusing on the past. It was a season riddled with injuries and inexperience. Players that are returning are healthier than last season and expect nothing less than the ability to succeed.

“Last year was unacceptable,” said forward/center Victor Jusino, who is one-of-three team captains. “Not only do I think we’ll compete, but I think we’ll win. We’ve gotten better individually and the freshmen are adapting well.”

Guard Shelton Mickell, forward Ryan Peterson, and Jusino, are leading the team. The three take up roles as captains and plan on their team being ready for the season.

Only five freshmen joined the squad and the fact that a lot of them played together years before have made them very close on and off the court. The freshmen have assimilated quickly with their new teammates, but will have to grow.

“I’m a shooter and I like to shoot, and when [the team] tells me to shoot it and I make it there’s tons of positive reinforcement,” said guard/forward Ryan Peterson. “You can look up to the upperclassmen. They set the tone, work hard, and make sure we do everything correct.”

There was a big disconnect between upperclassmen and freshmen last year, according to Jusino. Upperclassmen this year have been trying to avoid that as much as possible. Everywhere they go, they go as a team, whether it is to Chipotle or to Kessel.

The bonding has also come via the new tough coaching regime. Healing expressed he’s an old fashioned coach and is hard on his players because he believes it yields the best results.

He expects nothing less of his staff that he chose specifically. Assistant coaches Ed Ryan, Nat Harris, and Andrew Cobain push the team to their limits everyday whether it’s in class, practice, or scrimmages. Jusino’s noticed it and appreciates it.

“They’re all over us,” Jusino said. “They’re on us 24/7 no matter what. We’re not allowed to take any steps back, we’re only focused on going forward, and they have our best interest in mind. It brings a lot out of us knowing they’re working their [rear ends] off.”

They don’t feel like they’re going to be pushed around in the conference and they have tons of motivation going forward. The chip on the shoulder the team bares only got bigger when the conference released rankings and Pace was dead last.

“There was a preseason coaches poll and every team picked us last,” Peterson said. “They came out with the rankings the other day and we have it posted up in our locker room. We all just look at it everyday as motivation. We look at that and we just want to work and prove everyone wrong.”

Healing, who’s been the assistant coach for the last two years, feels the team’s offense will be strong point because of the additions and the ability to shoot now. He points to people like Pearson, Peterson, and guard Mike Demello to shoot well.

“I think defensively we’re strong and we lacked shooters last year, so [Healing] did a great job bringing in some shooters this year,” Mickell said. “We want to be a tough team overall.”

The stars aren’t aligning here for a perfect season, but the team’s looking forward to playing on the hardwood. Their resiliency is something that will say a lot, that chip on the shoulder might just get knocked off, and the family of ballers will only get closer.