Head coach Brennen Shingleton and his players agree: the men’s basketball team is preparing to have a great season.
“Our guys that are returning are great leaders on and off the court, they are doing a fantastic job of getting us in position to be successful,” Shingleton said. “I couldn’t be more proud of where we are at right now and really excited to get the season going.”
Last season, the Rams posted a 24-8 (14-4 conference) record on the way to winning the Sooner Athletic Conference; the team lost to Campbellsville University in the first round of the NAIA Division I playoffs in March.
Even though it was an impressive season, the Rams are looking to do even better this time.
“We are looking at one game at a time and expect to win the conference championship first and then nationals. We have everything we need to win,” said guard Praneeth Udumalagala, a junior business management major. “Just like every other year, we as a team do our best to get ready for the season.”
The team lifts weights, conditions, and works on offense and defense during their six practices a week, Udumalagala said.
“More than half our players are new this year,” Udumalagala said. “Every player on our team is super excited for the opportunity they have received.”
Each athlete has been working hard to make sure they have what it takes to win, Udumalagala said.
“Every [player] is hungry to win and they are super excited for the season to show their talents and more importantly to show our team’s strength and to bring honor to our school by winning,” Udumalagala said.
A basketball program like Wesleyan’s is hard to find since there aren’t many like it, Udumalagala said.
“This program is special; from coaching staff to all the players entering, this program has the discipline to work as one to achieve our goals,” he said.
Achieving goals can be difficult but taking the season one day at a time helps, said point guard Patrick Listach, a senior history major.
“Every day brings a different challenge but we, the team and coaches, attack each day with intensity mentally and physically,” Listach said.
The whole team knows that it will take hard work to win games, Listach said.
“Nothing comes easy and we all understand that,” he said. “I think that is what will separate us from any other team in the country; all 15 guys want it and we’re willing to give it everything we have every day.”
Listach believes that the attitude the team had last year is here to stay.
“I believe we are very similar to last year’s team as far as work ethic,” Listach said. “We love to compete. We love to play the game of basketball.”
Out of the four years that Listach has been at Wesleyan, he hasn’t played with a team quite like this one, he said.
“We play really well together, we learn quickly, and we are fast and very athletic,” Listach said. “It will be a very exciting season for sure.”
The way that the team practices is going to make beating them a difficult task, Listach said.
“We are going to be tough to beat,” Listach said. “Coach Shingleton and coach Garnett have prepared us every day of practice and the guys are really buying into the system. Like we say in practice, ‘We’re ALL IN.’”
Wesleyan offers more than just a great basketball program. It also offers a great challenging learning environment, Listach said.
“Texas Wesleyan offers more than I could have imagined,” Listach said. “I love my professors and I love the curriculum. Also, I love playing for coach Shingleton. He knows how to get the best out of me.”
Wesleyan’s basketball program and the courses offered allow people to grow from their experiences here, Listach said.
“When I graduate I know I’ll be a better person than I was when I first came to Wesleyan,” Listach said.
The team bases its practices around the principle aspects of basketball, Shingleton said.
“We defend as a team, rebound, share the ball and get in the best physical shape of our lives,” Shingleton said. “But more importantly, we are building a chemistry and accountability as a team that doesn’t waiver.”
The team created its own work ethic, Shingleton said. The players decided that they needed to work hard.
“This group has been unbelievable,” Shingleton said. “Our coaching staff hasn’t had to ask them to work hard. We have GREAT leadership.”
There really isn’t any comparison between last year’s team and this year’s because they are different teams, Shingleton said.
“This team has its own challenges and goals,” he said. “We appreciate the past success but we are focused on new goals and challenges.”
The team lost a lot of players but they have also gained a lot of new players, Shingleton said.
“It’s never easy replacing any players, but the challenge is maintaining the culture of our program,” Shingleton said.
The men’s basketball team’s first home game is Oct. 31, when they play Dallas Christian College. Game time is 7 p.m. Tickets are $5 but admission is free for children under 12 and anyone with a Wesleyan ID.