The Keene State College men’s and women’s basketball seasons have officially begun, with each team having its first practices on Monday, Oct. 15.
Although these may be the first organized practices of the year, each team has stayed close through a long offseason, citing daily workouts and an estimated three to four pick up games a week as the key to maintaining team chemistry.
But the teammates are close off the court as well.
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“We’re actually really tight this year,” senior forward Eric Fazio said. “We all go out to eat together and hang out with each other on the weekends so we see our teammates every day.”
A big part of the first few practices is the dreaded conditioning drills, where coaches get a chance to evaluate how close each player is to being ready for the first game.
So far, men’s Coach Rob Colbert is happy with what he sees.
“I can say with confidence that all of our guys are in great shape,” Colbert began.
“One of our big goals was to get stronger and just looking at the size of our guys coming in I’d say we did that, so I’m encouraged,” Colbert said.
The women have also been working hard.
“We do agilities with our strength and condition coach about four times a week,” forward Brianna McCain said. “It’s tough but it gets us in shape for the season so it’s all worth it.”
McCain’s teammates reflected that sentiment, pointing to their offseason conditioning as the focal point of the week.
Both teams have had all the motivation they needed this summer after ending their seasons on disappointing notes.
The women finished last year with an impressive 19-10 record, but lost to Smith College in the Little East Conference playoffs.
Similarly, the men’s team sported a 19-8 record at the end of last season that included a spectacular win over top-seeded Middlebury College, however the season ended on a sour note with an emotional double overtime loss to Eastern Connecticut in the semifinals.
Head Coach of the women’s team, Keith Boucher, however, seemed to think some players could have used a little more motivation this summer.
“Most of our players are in great shape, but I think there’s some room for improvement in that area for certain girls,” Boucher said. “You know we always say it’s not our responsibility to get you in shape, it’s the players responsibility to already be in shape for the season.”
Regardless of the shape these two teams are in, everyone agrees there’s improvements to be made.
Junior guard Carly Kiernan likes her team’s defensive hustle and shooting, but sees a few different weaknesses in her team.
“We lost so many seniors we’re going to be a little small in the post, but that’s a big thing we’re going to work on,” Kiernan said. “Then our transition defense is another area where we want to improve.”
Colbert pointed out that the men’s team led the league in scoring, defensive field goal percentage and rebounding, but doesn’t want to give the impression that his team is free from flaws either.
“Hopefully we become a little bit better with the basketball,” Colbert said. “That’s one area we were grossly negligent in, was taking care of the ball.”
The easiest way to improve is by bringing in more players that can fill different roles within the system, and both teams have done that in the form of promising recruiting classes.
When asked if there were any particular freshman he was excited about, Junior guard Jimmy Hepple had trouble picking just one.
“I think we have a great freshman class as a whole,” Hepple said. “I think they’re going to rejuvenate us and just give us more weapons.
The women lost four starters to graduation, but think their incoming freshmen make them a quicker team.
As hopeful as each team is in its first year players, the players understand the tough adjustments they will all have to make, and just as they show flashes of brilliance, everyone acknowledges that all the incoming freshman remain largely unproven at this stage.
So the season has started and the teams have begun to get a feel for their respective game plans. Each one feels they have grown as players and people since last year’s defeats.
“Last year we were expecting to make a tournament run and we came up short,” Fazio explained. “This year we know what it feels like to come up short and we’re working hard to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
Zach Winn can be contacted