Photo by JD Pelegrino
Drake University’s men’s basketball team came to the end of their 2017-18 season over the weekend when Bradley knocked them out of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament quarterfinals, besting the Bulldogs in a heart-wrencher: 63-61.
The Braves moved on to the semifinals — a game the Bulldogs haven’t seen since 2008 — and lost to Loyola-Chicago, who earned their bid to the Big Dance.
In Friday’s loss, Drake’s seniors scored the majority of the 61 points, with Reed Timmer leading the way at 18.
Timmer’s effort was built on by fellow senior class members Ore Arogundade (2), C.J. Rivers (4), Graham Woodward (9) and De’Antae McMurray (9).
This season of basketball gave a hopeful glimpse of a plentiful future for the Bulldogs under Niko Medved.
The team improved their record from seven wins last season to 16 wins this season, making a noticeable difference in play, especially during home games. The Bulldogs acquired 10 of their 16 wins in front of hometown Knapp Center crowds.
Reed Timmer was historic this season, becoming Drake men’s all-time leading scorer, surpassing 1,800 points a few weeks ago, among other accomplishments.
On March 26, 2017, Minnesota native Niko Medved was named the new head coach of Drake men’s basketball, a known champion of promoting and yielding excellence both on and off the basketball court.
Having gotten used to playing under different leadership, the upperclassmen had the opportunity to choose whether to try and adapt to Medved’s style or be stubborn.
They chose wisely.
“We chose to go all in with this coaching staff, and the coaching staff went all in on us,” junior forward Nick McGlynn said.
A new coaching staff and a new season fosters new goals, and McGlynn shared that the team “had goals that exceeded expectations out of anyone outside our locker room.”
Losing in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament wasn’t the ideal end to the Bulldogs’ season, but returning players like McGlynn hope to take the season’s spark and continue to build off their own success.
The Bulldogs will usher in a new senior class of leadership this upcoming season as Kory Kuenstling, Casey Schlatter and Nick McGlynn all step up to the plate to lead both the current players as well as the incoming freshmen.
McGlynn said he has a responsibility to be a leader and is looking to learn from the outgoing seniors’ persistence in order to inspire others with his style of play and attitude.
“I want to lead the team that’s coming in … to have good team chemistry and to have success on the court,” McGlynn said.
While two consecutive first-round exits in the conference tournament is not what the Bulldogs hoped for after a much improved season, it’s a much different environment around the men’s program than it was at this time last year.
While Kuenstling, Schlatter and McGlynn will step into leadership roles next season, Drake needs to re-stock in terms of back-court talent to replace this year’s seniors.
Medved and Drake were sold as a dynamic pairing in terms of recruitment, and there have already been a handful of signings this year.
Next season will be crucial for the projection of the program.