HomeCurrent IssueTeam of the week: men’s basketball

Team of the week: men’s basketball

Jacob Bloom

staff writer

Men’s basketball’s Head Coach Kip Ioane treats the beginning of every new season like the beginning of an untouched puzzle: “You’re trying to figure out how these 20 humans fit together here. Does that same puzzle hold when you go on the court, when you go on the plane, when you go in the locker room? The challenge is trying to align everybody together, and it’s never the same.” 

This Saturday, Nov. 9, Willamette University’s men’s basketball team had a home game against Montclair State. Although the 74-107 loss wasn’t the outcome the Bearcats were hoping for, the team isn’t getting too caught up on individual losses. Instead, they’re focused on learning and growing from the valuable experience they gain early in the season before their Northwest Conference (NWC) matches begin. Coach Ioane said: “We want to win, don’t get me wrong, but it’s also with our eyes on Dec. 7, on the [NWC] opener against Lewis and Clark, that’s when we need to be firing on all cylinders. If it takes a while to get there, that’s alright.” 

Junior center Ben Sutton agreed with his coach: “We don’t want to diminish the importance of our upcoming games… the main objective is before the conference play starts to figure out our roles on our team and how to get our potential to the maximum.”

For the Bearcats, learning from a loss is more desirable than winning without gaining any substantial experience to grow from. Although simply put, the Bearcats were athletically outmatched against their NCAA Division I opponent the University of Portland on Tuesday, Nov. 5, losing 36-86, Junior forward Ryan Peterson sees games like these as valuable experience: “It was hard, but it was good for us, because playing against a team like that, where they’re moving much faster than we are, then you go and play against [a] Division III team and everything slows down and it’s a lot easier, so I think it will be good for us down the road to have that experience.”

In addition to seeing growth on the basketball court, character development is something the Bearcats see as equally important as they prepare for the season. Coach Ioane sees healthy communication as crucial for a thriving team: “We’re committed to our team’s character development, and really driving healthy manhood. I think that the culture of self-reflection is a culture we try to get the guys to buy into. They’re not afraid to have conversations with each other, with me [or] with the whole group about difficult stuff. I think that makes it easier when we lose a game… but also, we can have conversations about difficult issues. It makes us better communicators with each other as a whole.”

One unique way that the Bearcats are trying to promote a healthy team environment for the players is through a junior mentorship program for first-years. Coach Ioane said of the program: “[The first-years] have a mentor that’s in the junior class. We pair them together for two years, so by the time they’re juniors they’re ready to mentor another first-year. [The juniors] have to meet every week with [the first-years] and it could just be thirty minutes of Fifa, doesn’t matter. It’s always easier to talk to an upperclassman than to me if they’re struggling or stressed.”

Peterson expanded on this idea: “It’s interesting because the mentor program started when we were first-years, so you don’t really remember how many questions you had for your mentor in terms of things you didn’t know when you first showed up on campus, so it feels like they’re just asking questions left and right but there is so much learning [that’s necessary when] coming to school at Willamette.”

If there had to be one purveying value on the basketball team, it would the value of togetherness. This is Peterson’s favorite part of the team: “When I came in as a [first-year] we had an awesome group of individuals on the team that had made me feel really welcome, and now I feel really good making the incoming guys feel really welcome.” 

Coach Ioane, who played all four years at Willamette when he was a student, feels the same way: “We don’t remember the scores anymore.” From his time as a player on the team, he said, “It’s togetherness that I remember best.”

jhbloom@willamette.edu

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