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Mount Menís Basketball

Megan Kinsella
MSM Class of 2013

(1/2012) Well, here we are. January. Itís probably the least exciting month of the year. The thrill of the holiday season is over, everyone has to go back to work and school, itís bitterly cold outside, and Valentineís Day in February is the only thing to look forward to (yes, much sarcasm). With that being said, I thought we could all use a little pick-me-up. Instead of letting the after-Christmas blues take hold, come on out and pack the house at Mount menís basketball games!

The Mount St. Mary's menís basketball team was picked to finish sixth in the annual Northeast Conference Preseason Coachesí Poll. They tied for sixth in the NEC last year with a conference record of 9 wins and 9 losses. They began their 2011-12 season on Friday November 11th against an extremely talented Marquette squad. Although the men fell to Marquette, they showed their spunk and energy in other non-conference games throughout November and December. After their season-opener, they rebounded to beat Hartford University, 63-50. Next, they played their home-opener against Siena on November 19th. Knott Arena was packed with almost 2,000 spectators for the game, and the Mountaineers were off to a promising start after a 6-0 lead in the first two minutes. By halftime, however, they were down by 21 points. During the second half, a strong defensive effort brought the men within 9, but Siena held them off to secure the victory. Head coach Rob Burke commented on the support from Mount fans: "While we unfortunately didn't come out on top against a tough Siena team, the atmosphere in Knott Arena was special...maybe the best it has been in my short tenure here at Mount St. Mary's."

Later, on December 7th, the Mount went head to head with the University of Maryland. They battled back and forth the entire game, and ultimately fell in a 77-74 nail-biter, buzzer-beater loss. So far in Northeast Conference action, the Mount is 0-2, losing close games to St. Francis PA and last yearís defending champions Long Island. Beginning on January 5th, however, the men will begin their 16-game streak of Northeast Conference play, in which they are expected to really do some damage. See the schedule below for a list of remaining games, and come out to support the Mountaineers against their conference rivals!

The menís team is extremely young this year. With only one senior and three juniors, the team will be relying heavily on freshman and sophomores to step up and do big things this season. According to coach Burke, in college basketball the biggest improvement in a playerís career is typically seen between freshman and sophomore year. "So, weíll have a whole group making significant strides, building on what we did last year," Burke said. "Iím excited to see this group develop and see how much better we can get. I think part of the excitement is that practice is more competitive so it gives us a chance to continue to improve at a rate that we didnít have a chance to do last year."

Not only is it a young team in regard to the players, but the coaching staff is also fairly new to the Mount. Head coach Burke became the 20th menís basketball coach in Mount history and is in his second season here in Emmitsburg. He came to us last year with 22 years of coaching experience under his belt, having coached at Princeton, Georgetown, and American University. During his prestigious career, he has coached 39 All-Conference players and four NBA players. Not only is Burke fairly new to the program, but all three of his assistant coachesó Matt Henry, Darryl Bruce, and Tony Betheló are in their first year here at the Mount. Prior to this season, Henry was with Georgetown basketball for six years as Director of Basketball Operations. Bruce is in his 21st season as an assistant coach, having spent the last six years at Jacksonville University. Bethel graduated from North Carolina State in 2006, and played professional basketball in Sweden, Bosnia, and Belgium. Needless to say, this basketball coaching staff is qualified, talented, and hungry for success. Although they are new to the program, these four men have been able to work together to start transforming the young Mount team into a force to be reckoned with.

As far as season goals, the team has only one: improvement. "[Our goal] is to get better every single day," said Burke, "We take it one game at a time and try to win every one of them, no matter who the opponent is. Then we pick up our heads at the end of the year and see where we are." Offensively, the team is looking to improve by taking better care of the ball while at the same time pushing the tempo. They are also looking to do a better job of attacking the glass, both offensively and defensively. In an interview after two weeks of pre-season practice, Senior Danny Thompson commented on the teamís expectations for the season: "As with every year, we are expected to win the championship. Along the way we still have to play a tough schedule and stronger teams, but I feel like that is just going to help us be more prepared for the NEC tournament."

To add to the excitement of new beginnings and improvement, this season marks the 50th anniversary of the MSM menís National Championship basketball team. The Mountís athletic department is honoring the 1962 championship team with a season-long celebration. Festivities began at the home-opener against Siena on November 19th with a commemorative pin giveaway to the first 1,000 fans. At the December 10th game against Loyola, thousands looked on as legendary coach Jim "Bowtie" Phelan unveiled the retired jersey number of Mr. John OíReilly (#51). OíReilly played for Phelan from 1960 to 1963 and led the Mountaineers to the National Championships with an average of 18.8 points per game in the 1962 season. He finished his career at the Mount with a total of 1,508 points and 1,113 rebounds. Finally, at the Monmouth game on February 18th, members of the 1962 championship team will be honored at a halftime ceremony. The first 1,000 fans will receive rally towels, so make sure you get there early!

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