The 2015-16 edition of Seattle University men’s basketball tips off this Friday, but you might say it began at the end of last season. After a successful fourth place finish in the conference regular season, the Redhawks went on a fantastic WAC tournament run to the title game but came up short, just one win away from an NCAA tournament bid. With a group of returning veterans, as well as some new faces, head coach Cameron Dollar, the coaching staff and the players are eager to carry the momentum from last year into the start of the new season and take the next step.
Head coach Cameron Dollar.
“It was a tough loss, definitely,” said senior center Jack Crook. “But I think losing, even though it was terrible at the time, it gave us a lot more fire going into the preseason this year and the summer working out.”
Crook is a key returning part of an upperclassmen frontcourt focused on rebounding, facilitating and a defense-first mindset that Coach Dollar and the staff preaches heavily. Along with forwards William Powell, the team’s leading returning scorer and rebounder, and Deshaun Sunderhaus, who’s returning from a season-ending knee injury from last year, these experienced leaders on the floor are ready to set the tone for the newcomers.
And there are some newcomers this year in four true freshmen and two redshirt freshmen, but they’ll have some veterans to lean on and Crook is embracing that role.
“I think, personally, I got to make sure I teach the young guys everything that has been instilled in me over the first few years, especially from the guys who were here before me. Coach, he always likes preaching the same stuff like defense first, rebounding,” Crook said. “I think it’s my job—and like the older guys that have been here for a while—to teach the younger guys that that’s our identity.That’s where we start and then everything else builds from that.”
The blend of young newcomers and returning vets creates an interesting dynamic, and Coach Dollar likes what he sees thus far.
“We have a good group chemistry-wise, they really push each other,” Dollar said. He said that upperclassmen such as Jack Crook, William Powell and Emmanuel Chibuogwu have done a good job of teaching newcomers and leading the way. “…The younger guys have accepted that teaching, and they’ve gotten better and learned to lean on the older guys, so that’s been a good mix so far and I think it’ll only continue.”
Gone from last year’s team are the top two leading scorers and all conference players—Isiah Umipig and Jarell Flora— so the younger players undoubtedly have some big shoes to fill. But Coach Dollar believes they’re up to the challenge and expects them to continually improve.
“Frankly, we’ve gotten better shooters,” Dollar said. “So we’ll continue to use that as a weapon. I think I got some young guys that can really shoot it and we’re going to push them to shoot it, and shoot it, and shoot it, and shoot it. But the reason why they’re able to shoot it is because Jack Crook and William Powell, especially, understand how to facilitate and give them extra opportunities to get those shots off.”
Coach Dollar is excited to build off of last year’s success momentum.
“[I’m] Excited to see more people out at Key Arena. Excited to see more students that are aware and engaged. Just another step in building this into what we all want it to become. I would like for us to maintain that level of being in the top half of the league, for sure,” Dollar said.
“I expect us to have a starting point, and then at the end of that point, at the end of the year, we’ve definitely ascended up and we’ve continued to get better every time we go out. What that looks like? We’ll all find out together.”
The journey begins this Friday at Key Arena, when the Redhawks open their season against Arkansas Pine-Bluff at 7:30 p.m.
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