Basketball team hopes depth and youth lead players on the court

With four returning starters and nine freshmen, the Gen- erals believe that an ODAC championship is within arm’s reach this season

Tanner Smith

The men’s basketball team may be coming off of a season in which it did not make the playoffs, but it is confident that an infusion of youth has it on the right track this season.

The team, which had a 10–16 record last season, returns two All-Conference players from last year. Andy Kleinlein, ’17, was named second team All-ODAC, and Clayton Murtha, ’18, was named third team All-ODAC. Two other starters are also returning, Nicholas George, ’18, and Devin Kearns, ’19, and Head Coach Adam Hutchinson thinks that this group should have high expectations.

“I think the goal should be to win the conference,” Hutchinson said. “I think that W&L is far and away the best school in the ODAC and I think we should find a way for our basketball results to match up with that. I think we should challenge ourselves to find a way to make that happen because it can be done. This group of guys seems to welcome that; they seem to thrive when you challenge them.”

While Hutchinson has high expectations for the group, he sees a lot of room for potential growth over the course of the season.

“There is what I am saying I want to see and there is what we are doing, which isn’t quite the same thing,” Hutchinson said. “The reality is we need to play harder than we have and we need to play smarter. But I think we are unselfish and we compete.”

Kleinlein and Murtha share the same goal as their coach, as they both think this year’s team should be able to challenge for the program’s first ODAC title in 37 years. One reason that they believe this is that they have seen a culture change in practices this year from years past.

“Last year we were a little limited in practice,” Kleinlein said.

“This year we have some young guys who have a lot of energy who are big, long and active so it is a big difference. It prepares you for games a lot better. If you can compete every single day in practice, you have seen every situation and you have battled then you are prepared to get a win.”

While Murtha has enjoyed the energy that the freshmen have brought to practice, he recognizes that they have had to endure a learning curve with the offensive system.

“A lot of people think that the offense is very confusing because it is not a set ‘you go here, here and here’ type of offense,” Murtha said. “You have to make a lot of reads, be aware of where other guys are on the court and where the defense is and go from there. I think they need to get adjusted to the types of looks they will see and what to do in those situations.”

Outside of the freshman talent, Kleinlein and Murtha are both excited about the development of a player headed into his sophomore season.

“I think Alex Starr (‘19) is going to have a big year,” Kleinlein said. “He was a freshman last year just getting comfortable. He worked very hard this offseason, got in better shape and got quicker, faster and stronger. He has really been playing well and doing all the things our coach wants and all the things we could ask. I think he will have a breakout year.”

The team is set to play its first regular season game on Nov. 15 at Ferrum, who finished last season with a 13–13 record.