The Baker Orange

Men’s basketball welcomes 11 newcomers

Story by Chad Mullens

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The Baker University men’s basketball team may have graduated seven key players last spring, but 11 newcomers will provide fresh energy to the young squad.

The Wildcats look to bounce back from their 15-14 record and sixth-place finish in the Heart of America Athletic Conference, which disappointed head coach Sean Dooley and his team.

“Inconsistency hurt us the most (last season),” Dooley said. “When you play on a high level and then drop off, you feel like there were games we left on the table that we could have won. And if we had won some of those games then we would have had a completely different season.”

The most drastic changes to the roster are the decrease in size and the increase in athleticism. Junior EJ Carter thinks the adjustments will bring the team success.

“I think our athleticism and speed will give us that edge,” Carter said. “Last year, we were a bigger, slower team, so we ran a lot of our offense in the half court. This year, it will be full-court offense and full-court pressure defense.”

Senior point guard Julian Mills likes his new teammates’ ability to create opportunities.

“Last season, we had a lot less guys who could create off the dribble and a lot more shooters,” Mills said. “This year, it has kind of flipped, and I think it’s better for the team.”

With a fast-paced offense, turnovers and low-percentage shots can add up, leading to negative results. In his new leadership role, Carter will work to keep that from happening.

“You can have a bunch of athletes just running around helter-skelter and it would be utter chaos,” he said. “The one thing we have to have is control. It’s a 40-minute game, and in those 40 minutes, you have to go as hard as you possibly can. We have the rest of the 24 hours in the day to relax.”

Carter knows that with all the new players coming to the squad, developing team chemistry is crucial.

“Our main focus is chemistry and cohesion,” Carter said. “Once we get that cohesion that every good team needs and the ability to play together fluidly, at that point is when we’ll be able to see the majority of our success.”

As the leader of the offense, Mills will set the tone for his new teammates.

“The players coming out of high school have never had to deal with a shot clock, so what I’m going to do is make sure they have shot clock awareness, not only running out the clock, but also chucking it up really early,” Mills said. “They have to understand passing up a good shot to get a great shot, and that is how we’ll become great.”

Of the 11 newcomers, Carter sees major potential in freshman point guard Javeion Gray.<br/>

“He’s a real strong guard,” Carter said. “He’s strong skill-wise, he hustles and plays defense. He’s just a well-rounded athlete.

With all the change looming, Dooley has yet to find a go-to scorer.

“Right now we don’t have that guy, but that will play itself throughout the season,” Dooley said. “We’re still trying to mix-and-match, get our lineups set.”

The Wildcats’ 8-10 HAAC record last season was especially disappointing to Carter, but he thinks they will stack up well against their conference opponents this year.

“Teams change drastically from year to year, case in point being us,” he said. “But I think Culver-Stockton (College) was the only team that is legitimately athletic like we are.”

Baker will open its season against Hastings College at 7 p.m. on Nov. 1 in Hastings, Neb., and will host its home opener on Nov. 12 against Kansas Wesleyan College.

Carter thinks the team’s display of athleticism will be pleasing to the crowd and will cause the Wildcat fan base to increase substantially.

“The people that come out will see a lot of dunks, a lot of alley-oops, and it’s going to be a fun type of basketball to watch,” Carter said.

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