Following a rough start to the season, the College’s men’s basketball team has clawed its way to more wins than it had last season with 10 games yet to play, as well as a winning record in the hyper-competitive New Jersey Athletic Conference.
The Lions (7-8, 5-4) were on fire during the break, winning six of the nine games they played. The team fared especially well within their conference, going 5-2 after being blown out in their first two NJAC games.
“It’s just a tough conference,” head coach Kelly Williams said of the state of the NJAC. “And the fact that we have a winning record in such a tough conference is just a testament to how hard the guys have worked in practice every day and in the pre-season.”
The team’s winning ways has not hurt its confidence either, and will help the Lions continue a season of improvement.
“They’re starting to play with some confidence and believe in each other a little more, and as a coach that’s one of the things that you want your team have, to walk into every game and believe that you have a chance — that’s one benefit of having a winning record in-conference right now,” Williams said.
Leading the team during the run has been sophomore forward Bobby Brackett, who is currently averaging 18.3 points and 13.4 rebounds per game. Brackett’s rebounding numbers are currently tops among players in Division III, and his 12 double-doubles place him second in the nation. Brackett was recently featured by the Trenton Times.
“Everyone is excited for Bobby’s success, and what he’s doing nationally is definitely a special accomplishment,” Williams said. “The guys are so excited for his personal success.”
Brackett has been a consummate player off the court, too, being a good teammate and helping the Lions’ camaraderie.
“He’s a great teammate and a great person, and he’s a very humble superstar, to be honest,” Williams said. “So when the story came out, all the guys were excited, and they felt as though they were a part of it — which they are — and they really felt good about it, the opportunity to be recognized.”
During the break, the Lions saw victories over Rutgers-Camden (69-56), Westfield State University (71-66), Ramapo College (84-69), Rowan University (73-70), Montclair State University (74-72) and New Jersey City University (79-72). In that same stretch, the College fell to Kean University (72-48), FDU-Florham (85-71) and Rutgers-Newark (59-51).
The team is seeing the kind of success that they desired after last year’s disappointing 5-20 campaign.
“Right now, I really go back and harp on the fact that last year, these guys made a commitment,” Williams said when asked what sets this team apart from past years. “They were very disappointed in their efforts, and worked very hard during the offseason in the summer and in the preseason, and when they got back to camp this year they wanted to be better, and they fully committed, so they’re definitely reaping some of the rewards from that. I think a major factor in why we’re having such success right now is that we are truly a family, great chemistry, we’re tested, and when things aren’t going our way we don’t point the finger. We support each other, and are all on the same page, it’s all very encouraging. We only have one senior, so knowing that so many of these guys will be here next year is very reassuring.”
After the winter they’ve just had, it must be.
The Lions are back in action this week against William Paterson University this Wednesday at 8 p.m., before returning to the court Saturday at 2 p.m. against Kean University.