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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
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Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
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Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
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Men’s Basketball Continues Undefeated Season

As you may have seen on ESPN3 two weeks ago, Grinnell’s men’s basketball team has been going hard in the paint, literally. With the basketball season just getting underway, they’ve come up big, piling on win after win. With all the successes surrounding the team already, they’re looking forward to the season.

Their latest victories, a 122-92 topping of Monmouth College on Wednesday, Dec. 4, a 128-120 win at Beloit College last Saturday and a 132-126 triumph over Illinois College on Nov. 23 has led the team to a 6-0 overall record and 3-0 in the Midwest Conference.

Aaron Levin ’14 drives to the hoop against Monmouth College. Photograph by Parker Van Nostrand.

The game against Illinois College stirred up conversation not only around Grinnell, but around the nation as it was broadcast on ESPN3.

“That was an awesome team victory. We dug ourselves [into] a little bit of a hole at the beginning. I think a lot of guys had some jitters based on ESPN3 being there. The ESPN cameras and banners were all over the gym, but it was really fun and it was a once in a lifetime experience,” said Aaron Levin ’14. “We were able to bounce [back] … and pull out a really big win for the team.”

Earlier in the season, the team knew it was going to be a challenge for the new players to get acclimated, not only to college basketball but also to the team’s run-and-gun method—The System.

If the learning curve is as steep as the players were expecting, they sure are not letting it show.

“We started off rough and I think a lot of that has to do with the youth on our team—there’s a lot of new first-years, a lot of guys who have to adapt to The System,” Levin said. “I think we are really starting to gain ground here … guys are starting to pick it up, realize what it takes to win.”

All of the training has been paying off. A few of the team’s captains have already been honored at the conference level, with Jack Taylor ’15 and Pat Maher ’14 both being named Midwest Conference Men’s Basketball Performers of the Week this season.

“I think we’re playing together a lot better … we’re starting to get stuff figured out— who’s taking shots,  playing our roles better. Everything gets a little smoother every game,” said Stuart Hoegh ’17.

Still early in the season, Taylor has been shooting like it’s second nature: 71 points against Finlandia University, 109 points against Crossroads College and 41 points on Wednesday against Monmouth College. But don’t let that fool you; the entire team’s effort has been unwavering.

The team has been playing hard, shooting well and forcing turnovers every chance they get, but are not ready to relax yet. While the team may be on a perfect streak, they haven’t let the success get to their heads—the players agree that they still have more to work on.

“We’re shooting the ball really well, and we won’t be able to sustain that. There are going to be nights when it’s just not going in the hole—there are always those nights … So I’d say the one thing we really need to improve on is forcing turnovers,” Levin said.

One thing in particular the team heavily relies on is its teamwork and communication.

“The chemistry that we need to have to make everything work is the most important thing. We have to trust what the coaches say. If they say ‘Jump,’ we say ‘How high?’” said Evan Johnson ’15.

Tomorrow, the Pioneers will face St. Norbert College, the pre-season favorite to win the Midwest Conference. Ranked 18th in all of Division III men’s basketball, St. Norbert is the toughest team on Grinnell’s schedule.

“That’s a game that we’re really going to have to come out and execute … it’s definitely a big game for us, but we feel like with The System we can beat anybody—it doesn’t matter how good you are. If we do what we want to do right, we can beat anyone in this conference,” Levin said.

The game starts at 1 p.m. and marks the last of the Pioneers’ home games this semester. With the way the team has been playing so far, the game should be fast-paced, high scoring and full of excitement.

“They’re going to try to push us around … it’s going to be a great atmosphere, which we’re going to feed off of. Hopefully … we’re going to go into this [winter] break undefeated,” Johnson said.

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