The Keene State College Men’s Basketball team will certainly have teams coming for them heading into the upcoming season that opens November 14, as the defending Little East Conference tournament champions.
Last season, the Owls had a strong turnaround year, going 20-9 a season after finishing just 8-17. The Owls won the LEC Tournament by defeating Western Connecticut State University, then Eastern Connecticut State University and finally Rhode Island College in the championship game to advance to the NCAA Tournament. The Owls were defeated by Johns Hopkins University in the opening round.
Sophomore guard Dizel Wright said the team this season is definitely going to be on everyone’s radar.
“I know there is a big target on our back and every team in the LEC is going to be coming for us,” Wright said.
However, one thing the team already has during practices and their scrimmages is good chemistry.
“We get along good on and off the court. The chemistry is good so far,” Wright said.
Interim Head Coach Ryan Cain calls the season a process and is going to take it step by step and not look ahead to championships. “Obviously you have long-term goals and of course that’s a goal [winning the LEC Championship]. Right now you kind of have to forget about those events. Championships and those kind of things are secondary at this point,” Cain said.
Cain, who is in his first season with the Owls as the Interim Head Coach, said he likes the players on the roster that he has inherited. “We have a lot of good players,” Cain said. In addition, the team has 13 players returning from last season.
The Owls will need players to take on an increased role as the Owls lost Tom Doyle to graduation this past spring.
Doyle was the LEC Tournament MVP and was the Owls leading scorer, averaging 19.5 points per game last season.
Cain said he believes in his players after the loss of Doyle. “I think we have a lot of guys who are ready to step up and take advantage of the opportunity provided by Tom leaving,” Cain said.
One thing Cain sees happening is contributions from many different players. “I think we have a lot of guys who can be key players I definitely think it is going to be that team mindset.
I think you’ll see a guy for twenty-five [points] one day and have another guy the next day go for twenty-five [points],” Cain said.
The team also has newcomers this season, a mix of first-years and transfers.
Cain said the younger players are trying to get up to speed with the older players. “The thing they are doing best is they are trying to play at a high level similar to the older guys. I think the older guys know what it takes in terms of the energy and effort,” Cain said.
Wright said the younger players are already fitting in. “The chemistry is good [between] the incoming freshmen, the transfers and the returning guys,” Wright said.
However, the biggest change this season for the Owls is the coaching staff. The players have so far adjusted to the changes. Wright said, “I think the team likes the coaching staff a lot. Obviously they are younger they get a better feel of like how it because we are still in college and they’re like kind of fresh out.”
Senior Guard Nate Stitchell said new the system under the coaching is a little different. “One thing that I could say is there is a little bit more freedom we are all comfortable as players we all trust each other.
Coach kind of allows us to kind of play how we play and take care of it on the defensive end,” Stitchell said.
Cain said he is looking forward to coaching his first game as a collegiate head coach. “Even just coaching in my first scrimmage I was extremely excited to get going I think we have a great group of people. I look forward seeing these guys perform at their best when the lights are on,” Cain said.
The Owls open up the season this weekend on Saturday night against Green Mountain at 5 p.m. at Spaulding Gymnasium. LEC play will begin on December 5, when the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth comes to Keene.
Brian can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org