Despite being loadedwith fresh new talent, the Drake men’s basketball team is off to a disappointing 2-4 start. Drake opened the season at home with a win against Texas Southern before losing to Iowa State in Ames.
After the first two regular-season games, Drake participated in the Great Alaska Shootout in Anchorage, Alaska. The team won its first game over Southern Utah, and then dropped two in a row to St. John’s and Weber State to end the tournament at 1-2.
The next game for the Bulldogs was also on the road in Fort Collins, Colo., against Colorado State, a game Drake ended up losing 78-67 last Wednesday. Although there have been some lopsided losses and the team has a losing record, the team feels good about where it stands right now.
“We’re never happy when we have a losing record,” Head Coach Mark Phelps said. “But at the same time, our focus is on daily improvement, and I think that we are moving in that direction.”
The team has one more road game this Wednesday against Eastern Michigan before having a five-game home stand at the Knapp Center. This was a team that was expected to get off to a slow start because of its inexperience and youth.
“We have a lot of guys who are new to the speed and intensity of college basketball,” Phelps said. “Seth [VanDeest] and Frank [Wiseler] and Ryan [Wedel] are our only three guys with any appreciable experience, which leaves nine to 10 guys who are learning on the fly.”
The new players are learning quickly that this is a team that stresses the importance of defense.
“Our defense is what needs to be improved,” junior transfer Kurt Alexander said. “Transition defense. We need to learn how to get back on defense faster and match up better.”
Sophomore center and co-captain VanDeest agreed.
“Our two main things that I think need to be improved are defense and rebounding,” VanDeest said.
With the whole team and coach on the same page about team chemistry, and believing in an improvement on defense, the team record is sure to improve in the upcoming games.
“Right now we’re just really up and down,” Alexander said. “We’ve had some close games that we should have won, but we’re working really hard in practices and have good team chemistry and a common goal, and I think we’re going to keep getting better and better because of that.”
Photo: File Photo