The men’s team hoops fell short of winning half of their games last season, but senior captain Justus Von Wright says this year’s team is a different group of guys.
“The main difference is the group of guys we have. They are willing to get better, they want to work hard and they want to do what is good for the team,” Von Wright said.
This year’s season kicks off with an exhibition game against National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I University of California, Irvine on Nov. 2.
California Baptist University Head Coach Tim Collins is not a fan of having only 14 days of practice before the first game, compared to the six weeks the team had as members of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), but says that their former conference provided elite competition that is comparable to NCAA Division II play.
“I do not think people in the stands
will say, ‘Wow, this is like USC.’ I think you are going to see the level of play you saw with the GSAC,” Collins said.
This will be the Lancers’ first year as members of the Pacific West (PacWest) Conference in NCAA Division II.
Collins has faced multiple Division II teams prior to starting his tenth season with the Lancers and is not concerned about the jump to Division II, pointing to his team’s history of beating NCAA teams.
“I do not think there will be any difference. We played nine division II’s since I have been here,” Collins said.
Collins recalled his first year with the Lancers when a Division II school paid for CBU to be a part of their tournament, expecting the Lancers to be NAIA pushovers.
“We won a division II tournament in Bakersfield. We beat a nationally ranked team in my first year when we went to Drury University,” Collins said. “They had to pay us to come to their tournament, and they thought we were an NAIA school with a new coach. We ended up beating the home team who was ranked.”
A big problem for last year’s team was the lack of depth and the small amount of returning players who knew the system, which Collins believes are two issues that should not be a problem for this team.
Collins pointed to the fact that there are still unclaimed starting spots on the team this year because of the amount of talent and depth within each position.
“We are two deep in every spot, and there is quite a bit of equality across the roster. In other words, it is difficult to separate who is really better,” Collins said.
There are seven returning players who are noticeably bigger and stronger, and with the addition of junior college transfers, Collins is confident that Lancer fans will see a difference in this year’s team.
“I think they have improved. You can see it in their bodies. I have guys like Ivan Patterson who have put on 15 pounds of muscle,” Collins said.
After students feasted their eyes on high-flying dunks and raining 3-pointers the team displayed at the Midnight Madness kickoff party, some students came away excited to see what this year’s team can do.
“I feel like there are a lot of outside shots that we can look forward to seeing,” Chris Cox, senior, said.
Friday night was Cox’s third Midnight Madness attendance and he
was impressed with the skills that the team brings to the table.
“I would like to say that we have improved from last year, so I hope our record will show that,” Cox said.