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Play Together, Make Shots

The focus for the 2023 St. Ambrose Men’s Basketball team is simple: play together and make shots. While it may seem like obvious points of emphasis, as every team is always looking to improve in each of those areas. It is a worthy cause for a team that won just five games last year while averaging more turnovers than assists per game and shot just 40 percent from the field, including 29 percent from three and 69 percent from the free throw line.

“The team is most focused on improving our outside shooting as well as our free throw percentage. Just getting those numbers up will help us beat most teams down the stretch,” detailed senior guard Will Spriggs.

The team also saw contributions from just one senior last year, and just three juniors. 3,003 of the team’s 5,047 minutes (almost 60 percent) were recorded by underclassmen. The lineup was heavily reliant on players without a lot of collegiate experience.

Despite the struggles, the team left the 2022 season on a high note. On Senior Day, a day in which they were remembering the late Patrick Torrey, a teammate who tragically passed away in the middle of the season, the team played an incredibly inspired game against a talented, 20-7 Indiana South Bend team. The Bees were able to pull off the upset for Patrick, winning 90-75 in what would be the final game of the season.

Now the Bees are looking to carry that momentum into this season. What was a very young lineup a year prior will look to cash in on that gained experience. Junior guard Grant Mason pointed out the amount of talent the team possesses. “We have talent all across the board from the transfers and freshmen to the returning guys. The only thing that matters right now is if we communicate well and play for each other,” described Mason.

In order to play for each other, the players will look for everyone to step up as leaders and to stay positive. “I feel like if I can be positive, communicate and be an example on the court, the team will come together,” Mason expressed.

This sentiment was shared by teammate and sophomore guard Jayven Jones, “My role will always be being a leader out there. Being able to control the floor and make sure I’m putting guys in the best positions possible to be able to be successful. Playing with the guys I do, that will be the easiest thing in the world.”

For Spriggs, this leadership is done in a different way, “I see my role on the team as a catalyst. A true spark plug. When I’m in the game, I want to get us started and have everyone energetic from start to finish. I want our group to be known for defense and being able to stop whoever is in front of us.”

As the season has kicked off, it certainly feels like a different team. The team has started 3-3 so far this season, already surpassing their non-conference win total from last season. The team has shot 50 percent from the field while holding their opponents to just 41 percent. 

The Bees dropped their first game of the season to Bradley, a division one university, before winning the next two games with an average margin of victory over 32 points. The Bees then lost to Clarke University, beat Mount Mercy by almost 20 points, and finally lost to Western Illinois, another division one opponent.

The Bees will begin conference play on Wednesday, November 15 against Missouri Baptist. The Bees will look to carry the improvement they have had in non-conference play into the conference schedule, where last year they won just four games. They are out to show opponents that last year wasn’t them rebuilding, but reloading.