Texas Wesleyan’s men’s basketball team expects to excel in their upcoming games and the conference tournament because of what head coach Brennen Shingleton said is the culture of this year’s team.
“We are a new team,” Shingleton said. “We’ve got great leadership and more importantly I think this team is by far the most unselfish team I’ve been around.”
The team, which is currently ranked No. 1 in the Sooner Athletic Conference and 16th in the nation among the NAIA Division I men’s basketball teams, won five games in a row between Dec. 31 and Jan. 14.
Because the Rams lost several starters last season, returning members have really had to step up and fill leadership roles, Shingleton said.
“We’ve got Naiel Smith, [who] is the leader in the nation in the assisting game, and we’ve got guys that are scoring really well,” he said. “We’re balanced.”
Shingleton believes that his team excels at “pouncing on their opponents.”
The team takes the season week by week and really focuses on the next game in front of them, he said.
“If we keep crawling up the rankings and taking care of our business the goal is to win another conference title and go from there,” Shingleton said.
Shingleton thinks the leadership and work ethic are largely responsible for his team’s success so far this season.
“You don’t have to do a whole lot of coaching. These guys are really kind of just locked in, and they seem to be really cohesive,” Shingleton said.
Shingleton thinks the attitude of the team has changed dramatically since last season, but the players still are motivated to win games.
“The difference being with this particular group is they have an uncanny ability to want to be coached,” Shingleton said. “It’s almost as if we kind of have to taper back the amount of information that we give.”
The 2016-2017 team will practice for hours at a time and not give it a second thought, Shingleton said.
“The difference being between this group and last year’s group was last year’s group was more of a management position job,” Shingleton said. “We really had to make sure the pieces of the puzzle fit. This group the puzzle fits. Now, we’re just trying to make sure we get the most out of it.”
Shingleton believes that the team is “unselfish to a fault” and that they need more constructive criticism at practice.
“We really have to find guys to say ‘you need to do more’, ‘you need to be more assertive’, ‘you need to be more proactive’, those kind of key words, and we didn’t have that kind of problem last year,” Shingleton said.
The team has so much potential that Shingleton said he is looking to maximize the skills of each player and push them to be the best they can be.
“It’s an amazing deal because nobody’s really ball hogging,” Shingleton said. “Everybody is trying to do what’s best for the team.”
The team’s unselfish attitude is apparent to anyone and can be seen in every game they play, he said.
“It’s a little unnerving as a coach because you’re waiting for the ball to drop; you’re kind of waiting for a problem to solve and this and that and this group doesn’t have it,” he said.
Shingleton thinks it is fun to watch this team compete because of how cohesive they are and how well they work together.
“We’re still kind of gradually trying to find our break-out moment, and find out how good we can really be,” Shingleton said. “And to be honest with you I don’t think we’re really close. I think we’ve got a lot of work to do, but the good part about it is we’re winning while we do it and not losing.”
Forward Peyton Prud’homme, sophomore mass communication major, is excited to finish the season with his team leading the conference.
“We’re first in conference. We’re ranked 16 in the nation It looks like we’re going to make the tournament. I think we’re going to win it,” said Prud’homme, who is not related to Wesleyan head football coach Joe Prud’homme.
There are still plenty of opportunities to watch the Rams at home so he urges Wesleyan students to come support the team, Prud’homme said.
Prud’homme thinks that this team is exciting to watch because many players have stepped up as leaders.
“Honestly, our top eight guys really produce a lot of minutes on the court and then we have really good bench too,” Prud’homme said.
In addition to practicing for hours on end, the team has been watching films of their opponents, as well as their own films, to develop new strategies and improve their skills, Prud’homme said.
The team has been preparing for upcoming games and working hard to stay healthy for the rest of the season, Prud’homme said.
“We’ve been pretty injured lately. A lot of guys are beat up and hurt, but we haven’t really had many guys miss games,” Prud’homme said. “We’ve had a couple miss games, but for the most part we’ve just kind of been playing pretty beat up, but that’s just part of the game.”
The team has high expectations for this season and they are very driven to win another title, guard Praneeth Udumalagala\ wrote in an email.
“Our expectations are pretty straight forward and that is to win every game we play. We take it one game at a time, and eventually, we will achieve our goals of winning the conference championship and then nationals,” wrote Udumalagala, a junior business management major.
Udumalagala thinks the team’s success is due to the program’s continued excellence and motivation.
“I’m not sure if we have done anything different [this year]. Every season we do our best and our coaches prepare us. It’s nothing short than performing our best, giving our 100% everyday as a program in and out of the gym,” Udumalagala wrote.
Udumalagala believes that the season is off to a great start but it’s too soon to compare the success of last year’s team to this year’s team.
“So far it’s a great start for our season, and I’m sure that it only gets better as the team is looking good and strong,” Udumalagala said.