With just a handful of games remaining on the schedule for the 2012-2013 Keene State College men’s basketball team, their true form has yet to take shape.
Their record stands at 10-7 (5-3 in the Little East Conference) heading into the final stretch of the season and with the high expectations coming into the year, this is not where they wanted to be.
Head Coach Rob Colbert explained, “I’m not at all happy with where we’re at right now. I’m disappointed in our ability to be consistent. We’ve shown signs of being able to play at a really high level, but we’ve also shown signs of just the opposite.”
While most were on winter break enjoying the sights and pleasantries of being home, the men’s basketball team never really left the court.
From Dec. 28, 2012 to Jan. 19, 2013, the team accumulated a record of 5-3 including conference wins over Western Connecticut State University, Plymouth State University and UMass-Dartmouth.
But a slow start to the year has left this team sitting at fourth in the Little East Conference now.
Senior guard Ryan Martin acknowledged this.
“I think coming into this year we knew we had a lot of talent and we started off the season underachieving a lot,” Martin said.
Colbert echoed the early struggles. “In the beginning, it was our understanding of what it is to compete, learning what it means to compete took an awful long time. Now, it is a matter of being mentally tough enough to be consistent and to execute and to bring that every day,” Colbert said.
“The championship is a month from today, and this team has the ability talent wise to win it, does it have the fortitude? I don’t know yet,” Colbert said.
Fazio explained, “I think we [as a team] are coming along. We haven’t hit our peak, or played our best basketball yet.”
One thing that is clear is that this team has the talent and ability to compete with any team out there. They have a legitimate low post scoring threat and defensive menace in Rashad Wright that will give any team a fit. Wright is averaging 11.1 points per game while grabbing nine rebounds and shelling out 1.9 blocks per game.
The quick hands of Ryan Martin also proved to create high preseason expectations. Martin, named a preseason All-American by D3hoops.com, averages 15.6 points per game. Not to mention a number of other players contributing to the point total every night. Senior Anthony Mariano averages 14.8 points per game off the bench. Senior Eric Fazio also chips in 11 points a night.
So what needs to change for this team to really take off and play to its potential?
Colbert said he believes he needs to bring it back to the basics somewhat. “I think I’ve got to do a much better job simplifying what they’ve got to do. Getting guys to just do their job, don’t try and do more and can’t do any less.”
Colbert continued, “The big three have to show up: Rashad [Wright], Anthony [Mariano], and Ryan [Martin]. They don’t have to score 40 but they need a consistent performance, everything else will be icing on the cake.”
Ryan Martin had his own take on it. “Coach knows the guys and has seen what works and what doesn’t, it’s just our turn now to play better,” he said.
One thing that doesn’t need any changing is the play and demeanor of the younger players on squad. Smart and solid play from Freshmen Tre Tipton and Jesse LaCroix has been crucial for the Owls.
On the impact of the young players, “Our younger guys have really been resilient. I’m happy with everyone of them, this younger group is somewhat unflappable,” Colbert said.
Tipton has found himself in the starting line up, while Lacroix contributes solid minutes off the bench. Coach Colbert said that with Tipton in the starting line up, Ryan Martin has been able to move from the point guard spot to the shooting guard.
Colbert continued, “With Martin as the two guard, we are more easily able to get him the ball and ease the workload of covering the opponents point guard all game.”
Everything this team has worked for all year will now boil down to these last games as they attempt to put it all together and make the push to climb up atop the LEC.
It is most certainly worth noting that senior forward Fazio can reach the 1,000-point mark for his career over these next eight games, a milestone that speaks for itself. He would join Anthony Mariano and Ryan Martin, who have both reached the 1,000-point mark this season.
Fazio said, “That’d be a great achievement, it would be awesome. I’m just letting it come to me. I’m not really stressing it, I’d rather win first place than score 1,000.”
Needless to say, despite the slow start, there are still things for fans to keep their eyes eye on as the basketball season winds down.
Jay McAree can be contacted at