Men’s basketball team looks to the future as their season wraps up

Despite a 13–15 record and losing three seniors next year, including their captain Andy Kleinlein, ‘17, the team is optimistic about their chances next season, as they have four of their five starters returning.

Photo courtesy of W&L Generals Athletics

Photo courtesy of W&L Generals Athletics

Ben Soullier

This season has been a rollercoaster ride for the Washington and Lee men’s basketball team.

The team started out the season with a rough 1-7 record, losing some close games along the way. They then turned it around winning five of their next six games, but slumped back into a “win one game, lose the next” situation.

However, despite a tough regular season, the Gennies finished the season on a five game win streak to make it to the semi-finals of the ODAC Conference Tournament before losing a nail-biter to a very talented Emory and Henry team. This was the first time since the 2013-14 season the team reached this mark.

Head Coach Adam Hutchinson said, “This was a pretty wild and atypical season.”

Despite the unwanted stress and craziness, Hutchinson praised his team for “playing their best basketball” at the end of the season.

The key to this success at the end of the season for Hutchinson was that the team learned to value every possession, both offensively and defensively.

“We talk a lot amongst ourselves about how you don’t know it’s a one possession game until it’s over,” he said. “So you have to treat every posses- sion like it’s that one. And to me, down the stretch, that’s what we did.”

The team also had a “next man up” mentality. For example, starting forward Nicholas George, ’18, went down with an injury before the Emory and Henry game.

“It would have been easy to give up when Nick went down, but we didn’t,” Hutchinson said. “As a coach you don’t want to have to coach effort and with this group I didn’t have to.”

For this team, effort was never an issue.

Captain Andy Kleinlein, ’17, said, “A huge key to our success was that we needed to get refocused. We knew we were capable,” he said. “We just had to have that sense of urgency taking every single possession and holding it to high importance and we were able to do that in the tournament.”

This sense of urgency and focus is something this team hopes to continue as they head into next season. Kleinlein said he hopes the underclassman can build off of this level of play and has a lot of confidence in his teammates to continue to represent the program well.

“I think it can only get better. With the presence of Clayton [Murtha, ’18] inside and Devin [Kearns, ’19] being able to create like he does and with Roy [McMillan, ’19] and [George] returning as well, they have the potential to go on a run a next year.”

Despite returning four of the five players who started the end of the season run, the team knows how hard it will be to replace Kleinlein.

“Obviously, losing Andy, Steve [Himmelberg, ’17] and Austin [Piatt, ’17] and the leadership they provide is a huge loss,” Murtha said. “We’re not going to be able to just replace Andy and the way he shoots the ball and the way he sees the court with one guy. You can’t just bring in a freshman and have someone do that. So it will be a combined effort and everyone taking a little bit of what he offered and adding that to their games to make up for that loss.”

As Kleinlein leaves, he reflected on the good times he had over the years. He said he has valued countless parts of his experience playing for the Generals. “My teammates and the relationships I’ve built would be the biggest takeaway. There are guys across seven classes that I have gotten to know really well,” he said. “The travel, getting to go places with those guys: we’ve gone to Daytona this year and Italy this past summer and those experiences I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.”

This team also saw individual milestones reached by Murtha and Kleinlein. This season both Murtha and Kleinlein joined the 1,000 career points club.

“It was awesome. It was something I wanted to accomplish during my career,” Kleinlein said. “There’s a lot of people that have worked very hard to be in it and I am very proud to be a part of it.”

Kleinlein attributed this achievement to his ability to stay healthy and his teammates finding him

Kleinlein was also named Second Team All ODAC for the second year in a row, while Murtha received All ODAC First Team recognition for the second time in his career.

With the many individual and team accomplishments, this is a season that the team and all Generals fans will remember for a long time to come.

“I am most proud of their resiliency. I’ve seen people quit and I’ve seen people quit without quitting and this team did not do that even after the 1-7 start,” Hutchinson said. “Ultimately you want to be a team that represents your school well. I think these guys competed with honor and in a way their peers could be proud of.”