Men's basketball season preview

By The Beacon | October 31, 2012 9:00pm

After a frustrating 2011-’12 season, head coach Eric Reveno plans on using speed and mental toughness to compete in the stacked WCC

(Jackie Jeffers | THE BEACON)

By Katie Dunn, Staff Writer

Youth has its advantages and the Pilots want to capitalize on them this season. They hope to use their quickness, energy and toughness to build from their 7-24 record last season. Junior forward Ryan Nicholas knows the Pilots have a lot to improve on from last year.

"Last year was a little bit of a disappointment for all of us," Nicolas said. "We really want to put that behind us and move on positively."

The Pilots went 3-13 in conference play last season and ended in eighth place. The team is looking forward to moving on and starting this season strong.

"For the program our goal is to be a postseason team and win the conference," head men's basketball coach Eric Reveno said.

With the second longest season of all UP sports, the men's basketball team has 33 games to play, many against some of the best teams in the NCAA.

The regular season opens Nov. 10 at Ohio University. The Bobcats have a strong returning team and went to the NCAA Tournament last year. The Pilots also have to travel to play the University of Kentucky Wildcats, the NCAA defending champions on Dec. 8. On Dec. 4, another fierce opponent will be hosting UNLV who also return all their starters and competed in the 2012 NCAA Tournament.

The Pilots have not been to the NCAA Tournament since 1996, but four teams in the WCC went last year. With one of the toughest schedules this season, the Pilots have to play each of those four teams twice as well as three teams ranked in the top 25. A rivalry for the Pilots is Gonzaga, ranked No. 21. This is a game everyone looks forward to, and is Nicholas' favorite game.

"I'm a Spokane native so I always liked Gonzaga," Nicholas said.

The Pilots are also circling Nov. 21 on their calendars. UP will be hosting rival Portland State and will bring the return of last season's Pilots' starting point guard Tim Douglas, who transferred to rival Portland State in the offseason.

Something they are hoping will help them win is their youth. Two seniors graduated last year and the team has only one this year: Derrick Rodgers. The team is an even mix of juniors, sophomores and freshman.

The four freshmen on the team are guards Bryce Pressley, David Ahern, Oskars Reinfelds and forward Jake Ehlers. They all played on Oct. 27 when the Pilots took on Concordia, beating the Bobcats in the first exhibition game 87-69. Pressley played in his first game as a Pilot, and is excited to be able to help his team.

"I just want to help however I can; mainly defense. Just play as hard as I can and cheer on my teammates," Pressley said.

There are a few key aspects to improve from last year: a constant positive attitude, strong defense and ball control. Reveno knows his team can win if they can stick with what they're doing.

"The energy and focus in practice is good," Reveno said, "but we've got to take care of the basketball by not turning it over and be really tough minded defensively."

Defense, communicating and rebounding are important for the Pilots to win games this year.

With such a young team, the few upperclassmen are needed to step up as leaders. Nicholas understands his role on the team as a veteran and a player who similarly had to become a leader early in his Pilot career.

"My goal is to lead and play my role as a leader the best I can so we can just get after it best we can," Nicholas said.

The team plans to focus on keeping their heads in the game and not getting down, something they will have to practice. The team plays next on Nov. 3 at home against Concordia-Irvine at 4 p.m.

Key Players

Junior Forward Ryan Nicolas 11.5 pts/game 7.6 rebounds/game

Sophomore guard Kevin Bailey 9.5 pts/game

Sophomore Thomas van der Mars 7.7 pts/game, 5.4 rebounds/game

Key Games at Home

Portland State Nov. 21, @ 7 p.m.

UNLV Dec. 4 @ 8 p.m.

Gonzaga Jan. 17, TBA

Saint Mary's Jan. 19, TBA

BYU Jan. 26, TBA

Sophomore David Carr dribbles while running the Pilot offense. After being a spark plug off the bench last season, the Pilots will heavily depend on Carr as point guard for his ball-handling and quickness. (Jackie Jeffers | THE BEACON)

Junior Ryan Nicholas readies on defense against Concordia on Oct. 27. Nicholas was the team’s leading scorer and rebounder in 2011-2012. (Jackie Jeffers | THE BEACON)