Basketball teams head to postseason

Forward Alex McQuinn scores in a game against Quincy University last season. After an uncertain season, both the men’s and women’s basketball teams have secured a spot in the Great Lakes Valley Conference Tournament. Photo from TMN Archives

For the past several months, athletes across the country have been wondering what their seasons are going to look like or if they’re even going to have a season. Truman State University men’s and women’s basketball players pondered these questions just a few short months ago and after a season riddled with uncertainty and pandemic-related adversity, both teams are about to head into the Great Lakes Valley Conference Tournament.

The men’s team is currently the No. 1 seed for the tournament with a record of 16-1. The women’s team is currently sitting at a record of 12-3, but its official seeding has yet to be announced. The GLVC tournaments are scheduled to take place March 3-7. 

The men still have two more games to play before the tournament — one tonight against Rockhurst University and the other Saturday against Southwest Baptist University. With the top conference spot already clenched, Assistant Coach Austin McBeth said the team is not worried about these last games in regard to the conference tournament, but hopes strong performances tonight and Saturday will help Truman’s seeding in the National Collegiate Athletic Association Tournament March 12-16.

“I think sometimes you get to the postseason and think you have to be the “Space Jam” version of yourself to be successful and my hope for our guys in the postseason is that they just continue to be the team they’ve been all year,” McBeth said. 

This season, the men’s team has dealt with multiple players going into quarantine at various times, but McBeth said this team is resilient. 

McBeth explained that the team feels fortunate to be able to play and is not taking any games for granted.  

“It’s just been really cool to see, in a time when it seems that the world is upside down, we’ve been fortunate enough to do what we love and stay together as a team to enjoy the freedom of playing this game,” McBeth said. 

As the men’s team now reflects on its personal experiences with COVID-19, the women’s team is currently dealing with multiple players who have tested positive for COVID-19 and are now in quarantine. 

Guard Katey Klucking dribbles the ball in a game last season. Klucking said the team is focused on improving individual skills while some of the team is in quarantine. Photo from TMN Archives

Guard Katey Klucking explained that the loss of these players, for the time being, has made practices a little different. She said the team has been working more on shooting and screen drills as opposed to scrimmage-based drills. 

While the team hasn’t been able to practice all together, Klucking said this time is an opportunity for each available player to focus on and improve their part in the game in preparation for the GLVC Tournament. 

“Going into postseason, I think it’s going to be nice because we haven’t played in a while so we’re all going to be pumped up and driven and building up to play, and I think that’s going to help us in bringing that energy once we have everyone back,” Klucking said. 

Women’s Head Coach Theo Dean said he is proud of his players for working through the adversity and keeping their minds locked in on both school and basketball. 

Dean noted that COVID-19 affects each person differently and player-coach communication is especially important right now. 

“If you’re out there I expect you to give me your all, but I also expect you to let me know when you need a break,” Dean said.

Going into the postseason, Dean said he thinks this break might be good for the players and he expects the team to eventually get back in the groove and be rejuvenated going forward.

The women’s team has not had a lot of run-away games this season, which Dean said is fortunate because the team has become accustomed to battling back and holding its defense strong. 

“We’ve had a lot of those close games … so I expect us to come out with a lot of fight and I expect us to play with a chip on our shoulder,” Dean said. “Whatever that result is, I’ll be okay with it as long as we’re doing everything we’re supposed to do.”