Whether it is a good night’s rest, a quick moment to mentally prepare, or something as simple as the choice in music before a game, every sports team has its own rituals. For the Whittier College Men’s Basketball Team, those rituals are fairly new and changing. Like every sport here on the Whittier College Campus, each member participates in practices and their own personal pregame rituals to pump themselves up in order to take on the opponent.
The Poet’s practice schedule is not exactly set in stone. Each player has his own practice shooting times, which can be before or after practice. Practice times depend on each player’s schedules and class times, but that does not hinder the team from getting together to go over plays. Whether it is late at night after other sports have finished practice or earlier in the evening, the players and their coaches find time to meet up.
A typical practice for Men’s Basketball begins with warm ups and some dynamic stretching. After, the men then go on to do some shooting drills before breaking up their seventeen players into three teams. In those three smaller teams, the players go into small drills that focus on the offense’s actions.
“Something new that Coach Jensen has put in this year is basically doing a little half time during practices like we would do during a game,” said third-year shooting guard Conner Longmire. “We go upstairs and watch a little film for five to ten minutes, then come back downstairs and go back into five on five, shell drill, and just scrimmage sort of stuff.”
On top of small drills and new practice rituals, the Poets focused on a new strategy, which is emphasized during each practice. “Position and communication are something that we are trying to make a part of our foundation,” said fourth-year guard Eric Davis. “We are trying to stress that because that’s going to be part of how we play.”
That is not the only thing that is new for Men’s Basketball. They received an entire new coaching staff this season, which includes Head Coach Mark Jensen, Assistant Coach and former player Da’mon Perry, as well as suporting staff Michael Myers and Cameron Jones.
With each practice, the team and its coaches are learning to adjust. “This is new to us,” said Davis. “It’s new to our coaches, it’s new to us returners, and [it’s] new to the people coming in, so we are just trying to learn how to make it part of our identity.”
Although the practice schedule changes, the Poets seems to have a set routine when it comes to games. Before each game, the team suits up in their sneakers and jerseys as the sound of Migos, T-Kay, and 21 Savage pours out of their loud speaker, making its way through the locker room. As the time to roll out onto the court arrives, the men huddle together for a quick team prayer. “[It] gets us pumped up,” said Davis.
As for personal pre-game rituals, the players have a few. “For myself, I just like to sleep all day and not worry about anything else until I wake up and it’s game time. [Then] it’s time to work,” said Davis.
“I just sit at my locker and listen to music and stretch, then lace up and play,” said first-year point guard Journey Shank.
“I try to get my own meditation going,” said third-year point guard Ryan Mendez. “Just to get my mind right before a game.”
Even with the new coaching staff and members, the players are confident they will have a great season this year. The team has its sights set on both the Conference and National Championships as well as number one in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) for all of Division III. The men have great faith in each other as teammates. “I like our team. [It’s a] great turnout,” said Shank. “We have a lot of transfers, a lot of returners, and a lot of experience.”
“We’ve got a lot of depth,” said Longmire. “I think that is something that we didn’t have last year. We know we can win.”
“I think [our depth] is going to separate our team this year [from the rest],” said Mendez. “We are all hungry to win.”
The players’ goals are going to take time and patience. “We got to take it step by step,” said Davis. “First thing we have to take care of is SCIAC, two games a piece. Sooner or later we will be at the National Championship. That’s the goal we are trying to achieve. We’ve got to shoot for the stars.”
The Whittier College Men’s Basketball Team’s first game will be away on Friday, Nov. 3 against the Dixie State University Trailblazers.