By DAVID VANTRESS firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — GOSHEN — New Goshen College men’s head basketball coach Neal Young likes what he sees so far from his team.
The 2013-14 season is young — just two games in — and the Maple Leafs are 1-1. Last weekend, Goshen stunned NAIA Div. II No. 17 Madonna University 80-62 on day two of the Indiana Hospitality Hoopfest.
It was Goshen’s first win against a Top 25 team since January 31, 2012 when they knocked off No. 24 Marian.
For Young, the win was gratifying, and not just because it was his first as a college coach.
Mainly because it came less than 24 hours after a disappointing loss to Lourdes.
“We were pretty consistent for 40 minutes and you can’t ask much more than that from guys, especially bouncing back after a tough loss,” Young said.
Consistency is something the first-year coach will ask of his young team all season and one of several keys to success.
”We want to play hard and fast,” Young said after a practice session earlier this week.
Defensively, the Maple Leafs will play primarily zone, Young said. “We want to be the team in our conference that other teams have to adjust to.”
An overall goal for the Maple Leafs is to eventually make it to Branson, Mo., site of the NAIA national tournament.
But that doesn’t just happen, Young said.
”We have talked a ton about laying the foundation and the only way to do that is brick by brick, every day, trusting the process, doing the little things everyday and eventually those little things add up,” Young said.
The pieces of the Goshen College puzzle in 2013-14 include five seniors, three full time returning starters, and four freshmen who will immediately get their chance to make an impact.
One of the team leaders is senior wing Jerron Jamerson. In his first season after transferring from Owens Community College, Jamerson was named to the Crossroads League’s All-Newcomer Team, averaging 16.1 points and 5.1 rebounds in 2013-14. He led the Maple Leafs in scoring in 14 games, reaching double digits in 22 of 29 contests.
Also returning from full-time starting roles in 2012-13 are senior forward Matt Glick and junior guard Stefon Luckey. Glick averaged 9.3 points and 4.2 rebounds a night, while Luckey poured in 10.6 points and was fourth in the Crossroads League (#24 in country) with 4.6 assists a game.
Luckey will look to score more when he can this season, but the Maple Leaf guard knows he doesn’t have to be that guy.
“I’ll pick my spots,” Luckey said.
Luckey is excited about the upcoming season, especially the team chemistry the Leafs have already formed under their new coach.
“There’s going to be more teamwork and fewer individuals,” Luckey said.
Other returning players include sophomore post Trevor Commissaris, junior Jake Clemens, and seniors Paxson Miller, Kyle Capps, and Sunday Mahaja.
With a new coach and a new system, players have to buy in right away, and Young feels his team has done that and then some.
“I couldn’t be more pleased with the buy-in from the guys so far,” Youg said. “I feel like guys are really trying hard to do the things we ask them to do on a regular basis. From a coaches standpoint, that is all you can ask of them.”
The Maple Leafs are in action Friday night at 6 p.m. at the Maple City Classic, hosted by Siena Heights University in Adrian, Mich. They play Calumet College of St. Joseph Friday night, then return at 1 p.m. Saturday for a contest against Roosevelt University.
Goshen travels to IUSB Tuesday night before returning home to the friendly confines of Gunden Gymnasium on Saturday, Nov. 16 with a 3 p.m. home game against Judson College.