Men’s basketball team looks to continue last season’s success

The Truman State University men’s basketball team is set to play its first game of the season Friday, Nov. 27 against the Lewis University Flyers.

The Great Lakes Valley Conference granted men’s and women’s basketball a 22-game winter season against conference opponents only. Practice began Oct. 15.

Last season, the Bulldogs secured their first GLVC Tournament title with a one point win over the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Before heading to the NCAA Div. II Tournament, the season was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now, the Bulldogs are heading into their first game since March.

Austin McBeth, assistant men’s basketball coach, said nobody on the team has had to isolate or quarantine this semester, so the team has been able to practice as usual. With many returners, McBeth said, practice has been productive.

“The main thing I’ve noticed during practice is how much having veterans on our team has helped in this unprecedented season,” McBeth said. “We have several new guys in our program this year, and our returners have done a good job getting them up to speed and leading by example.”

The men’s team has five new players this season, and McBeth said each new addition is impressive for different reasons and provides depth to the team. He said some of these newcomers will see play on the court this season.

Guard Elijah Hazekamp, a redshirt sophomore, said preparations for this season have been intense, with practice occurring five or six times each week.

Hazekamp said he expects the team to compete well this season as it balances new faces with the experience of veteran players.

McBeth explained that the team has been focused on defense this season. 

“I would hope that our fans would see us hang our hat on the defensive end,” McBeth said. “Coach Horner has always prioritized defense above anything else, and it showed last year during our championship run. Another thing we hope our fans see this year is how hard we play. We know there’s no substitution for effort, and it’s something we always want to bring every time we step on the floor.”

Although the GLVC has not permitted spectators at games, live streams and recordings of games are available through the GLVC Sports Network.

Hazekamp said the team has also been thinking about how to safely compete amid the coronavirus pandemic so it can have a complete season.

“There has to be some sort of concern in the back of our mind,” Hazekamp said. “We really want to play, but we also want to be as safe as possible. As of right now, we’re just preparing as if we are going to play.”