Coming into Head Coach Dennis Bentzler’s second season, the Titans hope to gut out a few more wins than the 3-19 team of 2019.
Under a hopeful increase in leadership with five seniors, Bentzler said the goal is to get better in practice and compete harder especially on the defensive side of the ball.
“Well, there’s no question for us that it’s going to be really all about our leadership, and we’ve got to get that blue-collar mentality back defensively, you know, just trying to get the new system in. And you’ve got to have good leadership,” said Bentzler.
He said the team struggled with being competitive in practice last season without vocal leaders and worked through some struggles in a first-year rebuild. He expects the leaders in the seniors will help the locker room get more on the same page to accomplish their goals.
The sophomore class is promising as well, he said, which will help their practices produce more effort as the squads compete for playing time.
“I look for things to become more competitive in practice. We just got to play more physical on both ends and basically play together and become a better basketball team. So that’s what I’m hoping for right now,” Bentzler said.
With a shortened offseason and limited facilities, most everyone is in the same situation, so conditioning isn’t necessarily allowed to be an issue, he said. The team wasn’t able to get in the weight room or develop fundamentals early on the court, but neither was anyone else.
Luckily, the chemistry isn’t in question, and Bentzler said the team will need to lean on it going forward.
“With the leadership we’ve got, Nathan Keene will be our speaking captain, and we’ve just got a really good group of seniors. So I’m not really worried about [chemistry],” he said. “I am worried about skill level things obviously, but everyone’s in the same boat. We’ve got two or three big in the sophomore class that are going to have to fit into the equation here. The young guys always need work.”
Balancing realistic goals on the court with soaking in the moment of playing at all in an unprecedented season is a theme this year. For Bentzler, life lessons learned in sports are the most important, and good things will come if the work is put in.
“We talk a lot about, you know, being respectful to our teachers. Our grades are important. It’s more important for me to see these kids, at the end of the day, walk across that stage and get a diploma than it is to win a championship of some sort,” he said. “I tell my kids every day I love them, and we push them hard. They know we got the best interest in mind … I don’t care if we’re 20-0 or 0-20. It doesn’t make any difference to me … It’s about the development of the kids as young men. We’re going to do the right things, and we’re going to try to become a better basketball program.”
Bentzler said playing the game of basketball is a privilege, and he reminds his team of it frequently. He’s all about realistic expectations, so the Titans will do the work and see how the results translate when the ball tips off.