Many people believe that winter has a direct effect on a person’s mood, something often referred to as the “winter effect.” The colder it gets, the bigger the reminder is that it’s once again time for college basketball.
Not only does everyone get a chance to watch some of the best talent in the nation on a nightly basis, but this year in particular Washburn fans may get the chance to watch the Ichabods make a run at restoring their once dominant men’s basketball culture.
This year coach Bob Chipman enters his 30th season, and he, along with his staff, have done some blockbuster recruiting in the offseason. If talent is a tell-tale sign of victory, then the MIAA might a well just ship the trophy to Topeka.
Of the 18-man squad, 10 of them are new faces; seniors Lekheython Malone and Deandre Eggins, juniors Jeramie Hart, Jonathan Leopaul, Covier Carter, sophomore Logan Stutz and freshmen William McNeill, Steve Feighny and Todd Ellis.
For Eggins, the toughest transition has been getting used to playing reduced minutes as well as the style of play that comes with Division II basketball. Eggins and Malone both hail from Arkansas-Little Rock, where they had a major impact, and now find themselves playing under coach Chipman, who with his unique coaching style presently has the third highest winning percentage in NCAA Division II history among coaches with 30-plus seasons of experience.
“We definitely have the pieces, we have some great post up players as well as guards but we need to work on team chemistry in order to win a championship, which is the ultimate goal,” said Eggins.
According to assistant coach Matt Keeley, the biggest difference between this year’s team and 2007’s is the work ethic.
“These guys love to work, they are always in the gym,” said Keeley.
So far, the hard working mentality has been displayed in the first three games that the Ichabods have played, and even though they lost to all three teams (KU, K-state, and UNLV), coach Keeley feels positive about the team’s performance.
“Athletically we’ve shown that we can match up to the best talent out in Division I,” Keeley said. “We don’t take plays off, and this year’s bunch is extremely deep”.
So far every night someone else has stepped up, from four year-player Paul Byers one night to freshman William McNeill on another, displaying the depth that this year’s team possesses. This wide range of options will make this year’s team a force to be reckoned with.
Regardless of the positives, the Bods still have much work to be done.
“We were outrebounded by K-state,” said Keeley. “But we won the rebounding battle between KU and UNLV, so we need to get rid of these inconsistencies.”
Every year, at least three teams from the MIAA are guaranteed to make the national tournament, which is a testament to the strength of the conference, and this year’s class is not much different.
Last year’s champions, Southwest Baptist, return to the MIAA ranked No. 1 in the coaches’ pre-season poll, followed by Central Missouri and Nebraska-Omaha. Washburn was picked to finish sixth in the conference.
Eggins’ goal is to disprove Washburn’s ranking.
“Myself and a couple of guys on the team feel as if we shouldn’t lose any game this season, and after the first three games we know that’s possible,” Eggins said. “We just need to get on the same page and win this thing.”