Lions prepared for grueling NJAC season

The team is looking to rebound from last year’s 5-20 season. (Photo courtesy of the Sports Information Desk)

The men’s basketball season begins this week, and head coach Kelly Williams is pumped up and ready to see his squad in action.

“I think we’re well-prepared for this upcoming season,” Williams said. “I have to give the players so much credit.They made an unbelievable commitment in the offseason to get better — to play with each other in different leagues.”

The chemistry developed in the offseason can only help the Lions heading into the season.

“I’m very excited about that,” Williams said. “I think that’s why we’re all so prepared, as well as we have so many guys returning from last year, so the future looks bright.”

The Lions have eight players returning from last year’s team, and they and their coaches have been busy preparing for what will, by no means, be an easy season of NJAC play.

“It’s never easy,” Williams said. “We obviously have a very challenging conference. I think it’s one of the most challenging and most competitive conferences in the country, so to play 18 out of your 25 games in that conference is not easy.”

The nonconference games are just as competitive, too.

“(We play) teams that have had NCAA bids the previous year, so we have a very challenging schedule, but I think this is a year where our guys are mentally and physically prepared for it,” Williams said.

Physical and mental preparation will be key to the College’s success this season, when the team plans to use its big roster to its advantage.

“We’ll probably have a game roster of about 15-16, so we hope to play an up-tempo style. We like to score off of our secondary break and in transition,” Williams said. “The games are going to be called so much tighter, a lot of teams will end up in foul trouble, so at some point throughout the season it will become a game of attrition.”

As a way of preparing for the quick play in a rough game, as well as to continue building the chemistry so crucial to a team, Williams had his group do something a little unusual in its last practice before the season. The team ran a drill in which it took charge from one another in a large circle, which ended with every player laughing and grinning as he did prat-falls after teammates’ half-hearted pushes.

“I’ve always loved John Thompson and Mike Krzyzewski, their demeanors and their approaches to coaching — I think stern but fair — able to communicate and relate, and attention to detail,” Williams said when asked about his coaching influences.

The grins might be gone by the time the games begin, but what will remain is the sense that these players really do like being a part of this team.