Jan. 21, 2003
By Kelly Spencer
The Santa Clara
For Santa Clara students, the months of November and December usually offer a welcome time of rest. For the Santa Clara men's basketball team, on the other hand, November and December involved everything but that.
The payoff - entering Saturday's 2003 West Coast Conference season opener against the University of San Diego with the confidence and cohesiveness developed by winning nine of 13 preseason games, the WCC's best preseason record.
Withstanding the loss of three starters from the 2002 season and injuries to seven players during preseason training and games, the men's basketball team (10-4, 1-0) entered Saturday's game with the poise of a devoted team that worked hard during Santa Clara's November and December holidays.
With five of the nine preseason wins determined by a six-point differential or less, the team's dedication proved invaluable as the Broncos beat San Diego 67-65, propelling the team to their seventh win in eight straight games.
This is no small feat considering the nominal experience of players such as walk-on sophomore guard Ethan Rohde, who scored 22 points during a preseason game against Princeton or freshman guard Brandon Rohe, who led the victory over San Diego with 20 points.
"[Brandon] has a good shooter's mentality," said Associate Head Coach Steve Seandel about the freshman's contribution to the team. "He likes to play and there's really no substitute for that."
Seandel was eager to point out the importance of dependable preseason performances from a variety of players, including the senior brothers Cord and Brad Anderson, both forwards, and junior center Jim Howell.
Rohde considers the team's young makeup a constructive asset that has influenced the preseason energy level of the team.
"We have a lot of talent." said Rohde. "This year guys are returning wanting to prove themselves and the young players can help them do that."
Howell agreed that being a young team factored into preseason success.
"People are so eager to learn," said Howell. "When you get older guys they think they know enough and tend to be less focused."
Head Coach Dick Davey attributes the preseason success to a unique team dynamic that places tremendous emphasis on each player's contribution and the team's passion for the game.
"This is a team, it's not controlled by any one or two individuals," commented Davey when asked what the team's greatest strength was.
"Our assistant coaches do a great job of preparing our guys for the opponent," commented Davey.
Howell agreed, "I think people overlook how much work our coaches put in."
Additionally, Davey implemented minor modifications to the preseason schedule to facilitate the needs of such a young team. Reducing the physical and mental demands of the preseason schedule gave the team time to establish a healthy team dynamic.
"In the past we've tended to play an awful lot of road games," said Seandel. "This year we played eight of 13 games at home."
Davey hopes that the preseason exposure the players had to each other and to the overwhelming environment of college-level athletics will solidify their familiarity with each other and enhance their comfort level when playing in front of a crowd.
After losing All-League guard Kyle Bailey - a league leader in points, assists and three-point field goals - for the season due to foot and back injuries, the coaching staff has been placed in unforeseen territory. Seandel, who describes the team as refreshing and resilient, recognizes the team's preseason ability to make the necessary adjustments.
"There's not many teams that have gone through what we have," said Seandel referring to the list of injuries that plagued the preseason.
But the team has seemingly recovered utilizing the depth of their lineup.
With each preseason injury the list of players willing to step up and do what is necessary for the team to win continued to grow.
"We're so deep right now," said Howell. "So if you're off that night someone will step up and get it done."
As the regular season tips off, be prepared for exciting league play full of youthful energy and an ambitious Bronco future.