BELOIT—If you’re into silver linings, you may even find a few in this pandemically-challenged preseason for the Beloit College men’s basketball team.
First of all, there’s certainly been a lot of time to concentrate on fundamental skills since starting Oct. 12. When your practices are restricted in numbers (10 people including coaches) and contact (there is none), you have a lot of time to drill on ballhandling and shooting.
“We are spending a lot of time on things we don’t ordinarily get to in a normal year when you have about three weeks to get ready to start playing games,” Beloit second-year head coach Josh Hinz said. “We’re really breaking down the fundamentals with the guys.”
Since there’s no contact allowed, players are asked to conceptualize what certain offenses and defenses would look like at full-speed and full-contact. At least head coach Josh Hinz has some bright kids to do exactly that.
“We’ve tried to incorporate a lot of decision-based training into what we’re doing even though we can’t have contact,” Hinz said. “We can still show different looks we typically get throughout our offense. We’re trying to train our guys to think a little quicker on the fly.”
Finally, if you’re a fan of a newcomer like Beloit Memorial’s own Azeez Ganiyu, you can be assured he is receiving a lot more attention in the current situation than if the Buccaneers were holding one practice with all 26 players. With two players not on campus taking courses remotely, he still has 24 so he has been running three practices a day with eight players in each.
“We have some really good guys in that freshmen class,” Hinz said. “It’s been beneficial having the smaller groups and having eyes on them more. That has been good on that end. It has been encouraging how quickly these guys have been able to pick up our stuff.”
If and when the Bucs hit the court for real in the new year, they’ll do it with quite a few question marks, including replacing graduated senior forward Tristan Shoup, an All-MWC Second Teamer three straight seasons who ranked sixth in the league in scoring at 17 points per game. He finished his career with 1,522 points, fourth-most in program history. He ranks fourth all-time in rebounds with 658.
Also lost to graduation were key components Darin Empereur, Mason Jones and Dan Babb.
“It’s going to be a challenge for sure,” Hinz said. “We lost four seniors who were in the rotation and two who were pretty much starters. Tristan was our leading scorer and Darin gave us a good scoring punch as well. It’s tougher not having that physical contact in practice and not being able to give a little more of a game look. We’re going to have to rely on some younger guys who haven’t seen a lot of minutes in the past. We’re trying to create as close to game scenarios as we can without bringing contact into it.
“We’re all staying as positive as we can,” Hinz said. “I think everyone is getting a little worn down over how we’ve had to practice, but that’s the situation we’re in now. We have to handle it the best way we can and get in whatever work we’re allowed to do.”
Hinz has been pleased with the showing of 6-4 Ganiyu.
“I don’t know if we have another athlete in our conference quite like him,” the coach said. “He’s phenomenal as far as the type of person and player you would want in your program. He is super positive and works extremely hard. We have a lot of fundamental things we need to work with and some of our offensive and defensive stuff we do here is quite a bit different than what he did in high school. But he’s been a sponge. He is one of those guys who picks it up quickly. I’m definitely excited about him. He’s in that 6-4, 6-5 range and it helps he can jump out of the gym.”
Hinz is optimistic his team can continue to build. Beloit put together a four-game winning streak, but then dropped its final six games to finish 6-12-0 in the MWC and 8-17-0 overall. The top player returning is 6-3 Andrew Walters, who led the MWC in rebounding.
“The guys have taken everything in stride and have had great energy with everything we have done,” he said. “I think a lot of that is because they all get along really well. We are staying hopeful that we will be able to play sometime in January. We’re trying not to stress over things that are not in our control.
“The (MWC college) presidents meet later this week. We don’t know if a decision will come out of that whether we will be playing in January.”