The men’s basketball team finished 18-9 (11-7) and in fourth place in the conference last season after finishing 4-21 during the 2011-12 season.
With only two weeks remaining before this year’s team heads to Hawaii Pacific for their first exhibition game, buzz is beginning around campus about this year’s basketball season.
Guard Jaylen Owens (Cleveland, Ohio) brought a different excitement to the team last year. Owens was recognized as Rookie of the Week in late February after scoring 19 points and dishing six assists in the Lions’ 78-64 quarterfinals victory over Salve Regina. Owens also earned the Rookie of the Year award. He averaged 11.6 points, 4.4 assists, 2.6 rebounds, and 2.5 steals per game in 25.1 minutes per game.
The Lions have to replace five seniors, including Chima Ezeigbo, who scored his 1,000th point last season. Ezeigbo averaged 27.7 minutes per game last season.
Head Coach Jim Aller, 2013 CCC Coach of the Year, said replacing the seniors will be difficult, but he is optimistic.
“We lost five seniors that played a lot of minutes during their careers, so we have some big shoes to fill,” Aller said. “I think we have some really talented newcomers this year. The test will be how quickly they can adapt to college ball.”
Owens echoed Aller’s thoughts.
“It’s going to be tough to replace the seniors, from their leadership to their court abilities,” Owens said. “But we have some good freshmen that can step in and fill the voids from last year, as well as returners who will have bigger roles in order for us to continue to have success as a program.”
Although the Lions won 14 more games in 2012-13 than 2011-12, Aller said previous years don’t dictate the current team’s success.
“We had a terrible record two years ago, which had no bearing on last year’s team,” Aller said. “Because we had a better record last year really has no bearing on this year’s team.”
Aller said success depends on how the team plays on the court.
“I do believe success breeds success, but at the end of the day, things are decided on the floor. I’m optimistic because I like our guys’ work ethic and attitude,” Aller said.
Sophomore forward Eric Lynch (Alpharetta, Ga.) has high expectations for this year’s team.
“We are coming into this year with a whole new mentality. All or nothing,” Lynch said. “Championship or bust. Anything less than a championship will not meet our standards.”
Lynch has the opportunity to play with his brother, freshman Chris Lynch (Alpharetta, Ga.) this season.
“I’m excited for this season, especially because I’m playing with my brother again,” Chris Lynch said.
Coach Aller wants to continue the basketball program’s progress this year.
“[Our goal is] to keep things moving forward with the program—I want us to be solid in the classroom, and I want us to represent the mission and values of ENC around campus, on the court and in the dorms,” Aller said. “I want folks to have high expectations for the program, and when we fall short of those expectations, I want us to learn from them.”
The Lions’ first home game is just over a month away. Suffolk will travel to the Lahue Physical Education Center at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 19.