6-19 overall. 2-12 in the MIAA. Several players dismissed from the program. A year to be forgotten.
But that was last season for the Albion College men’s basketball team (11-7 overall, 5-2 MIAA). This year’s team is different.
“We’re young, but I think from last year and the problems we had with the team and all the young guys getting an early start at the varsity level, that really helped us this year,” said Lawrence Ridgell, River Rouge senior and the lone senior on the team. “They know what they have to do now and what we have to do as upperclassmen to keep it going.”
Youth is often what holds talented teams back, but the Britons are an experienced young team and find themselves sitting in third place as they head into the second half of the MIAA season.
“They’re beginning to understand how hard you have to play,” said head coach Jody May. “Once you’ve become consistent and working hard, now you can work on the execution.”
While the team has found a level of consistency, it’s still not always easy to go out and practice hard every day. According to Ridgell, it’s up to him, captain Zach Hurth, Lansing junior, and the other upperclassmen on the team to continue to push the younger guys to get better even when times are tough.
“Sometimes we may notice our team with their heads down if we let another team go on a run,” Ridgell said. “The main goal me and Zach try to [accomplish] is keep everybody’s heads up.”
So far, they’ve been able to do a very good job managing the emotions of their young team.
While a tough loss for sole possession of first place in the MIAA against Calvin College set the team back on Wednesday night, the team looks to get back on track with another home game against Kalamazoo College inside Kresge Gymnasium tomorrow night at 7:30 pm. And as it turns out, the tiny gym on the west side of Albion’s campus has turned into quite the atmosphere thanks to the emergence of the “Kresge Krazys.”
“We love when the students are here and it definitely helps us play better,” said Hurth. “It’s good to know people actually care. It’s just a lot more fun when they’re here and we play a lot better.”
Coach May had similar praises about the realm of support the team has received since students returned to campus.
“It’s a great thing,” he said. “I hope this is a positive step for athletics in general because I think a lot of the other athletes on other teams were at our games.
“As an assistant I experienced those crowds back in the mid-2000’s, but I know none of our guys have ever experienced that.”
From large cut-outs of junior forward Carter Elliot’s head, to dancing non-stop in the front row during timeouts, the students have helped change the atmosphere for a team that started the year trying to find a new identity.
With last year now long gone and a noticeable change in the mindset of this year’s team, the Brits look to close the second half of league play strong and finish with an MIAA championship.
“We can always improve,” May said. “On the offensive end it’s just execution. Not turning the ball over. It just boils down to execution.”
Photo courtesy of Lowell McGinnis, Albion College Sports Information