Kendall Scott, Campus Carrier reporter
Jana Morning, Campus Carrier editor
The Berry College men’s basketball players and coaches have high expectations for their 2019-2020 season.
The team had a successful 2018-2019 season with an overall record of 19-7 and a conference record of 11-3. Senior Ethan Haslam, as well as the rest of the team, have high hopes of carrying their success over from last season into the upcoming season.
“I would love to win the conference championship,” Haslam said. “We came really close last year and being that close makes you hungry.”
After finishing the 2017-2018 season with a losing record, Berry’s Athletics Department hired Mitch Cole as the new head men’s basketball coach. Cole has a reputation of turning basketball programs around.
Before becoming a Viking, Cole coached at Birmingham-Southern College. His first year as coach, the team finished with a record of 13-12. Two years later, Cole led his team to a Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) East Division title with a record of 20-5.
Cole upheld that reputation last year as he coached Berry’s team to the conference tournament semi-finals against Sewanee. He expects his team to compete at a championship level and show daily improvement.
“We love to win a championship, we love to cut down nets, and we love to make it to the NCAA tournament. Those are all goals,” Cole said. “But my expectation for the team is to show daily improvement.”
The team has a large roster made up of 22 players, 10 of whom are newcomers. Cole said the depth of their roster is one of their biggest strengths.
“We have a lot of good players, all of whom can play multiple positions,” Cole said. “And all our newcomers are very capable.”
The team’s preseason focus is to be the best version of themselves in all aspects of preparation. This includes weightlifting, practicing and conditioning.
“We have to make sure we are putting ourselves in the best position to succeed by mastering all our skills,” Haslam said.
Senior Caleb Haynes was an honorable mention All-SAA Player and is the lead returning scorer and rebounder for the team. He has confidence in the team due to their past success and the hard work he has seen from his teammates thus far.
“To be successful this season, we have to put hard work in day in and day out, and I’ve seen that from the guys,” Haynes said. “We’ve got to hold each other accountable to meet a high standard.”
Haynes credited Cole for the difference he’s made in the program by the standard he’s set for his team.
“He’s held us to a high standard in the classroom, on the court and as men,” Haynes said.
Cole motivates them to meet that high standard by balancing productivity and fun. He knows the hard work that must go into every practice to ensure their success, but reminds them of the “why” behind their reason for playing.
“Our ‘why’ is not only playing for ourselves, but something bigger than ourselves,” Cole said. “We get to represent a great college, fight together as brothers, and glorify God through our play.”
Senior Ethan Clark believes that the key to their success is the attitude that Cole establishes in his players.
“We have to be bought in and connected,” Clark said. “We got to show up every day with a positive attitude, have a lot of energy in practice, work hard and want to get better. If we continue that, we’ll stay on the right path.”
The team’s first game of the season will be Friday at 8 p.m. at Huntingdon College. The first home tip-off will be Tuesday at 7 p.m. against Emory University.