Rock men’s basketball head coach Kevin Reynolds and his team ended their season with a loss in the first round of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) tournament. SRU finished the season with a 14-15 record, head coach Kevin Reynolds’ first losing season in his nine years as coach.
“We had higher aspirations than that as a team,” Reynolds said. “But having the third toughest schedule in the region is an indication of our record.”
Reynolds said he is not using a tough schedule as an excuse, because he purposely schedules that way with hopes of giving his team a better chance of making the NCAA tournament; it just did not work out in his favor this season.
The Rock spent the majority of the beginning of the season on the road playing tough competition. Seven out of the first 10 games were played at other schools. Out of those seven games, SRU only won one, losing to two NCAA Division I programs (University of Tennessee and Central Michigan University), three Division-II programs who finished in the top 10 or were once ranked (no. 9 Shippensburg, no. 10 Kutztown and Wheeling Jesuit, who ranked no. 7 when they played SRU) and a Daemen College team looking for revenge after last season’s loss to the Green and White.
“Our schedule was more difficult then we anticipated,” Reynolds said. “We started out slow, and that hurt us.”
The early losses were a hump The Rock could never overcome as the rest of their season was filled with inconsistent play. SRU went on a six-game winning streak after a weak opening before being topped by rival no. 8 IUP. The rest of the season would be a back-and-forth trade-off of winning and losing streaks before fighting for a spot in the final three games of the regular season to make the PSAC tournament.
That inconsistency could have come from a lack of experience. For the first time in his career, Reynolds did not have a single player who started their college career as a member of The Rock basketball program. Out of the 10 members on the roster, nine transferred in from other universities and one was a member of the football program for four seasons before trying out for the basketball team.
Despite the worst season during his tenure, Reynolds does not credit his recruiting methods for the outcome, but a combination of the team’s play on the court and how they were coached.
“When the school was traditionally recruiting, they were last,” Reynolds said. “This year we just didn’t make enough plays down the stretch like we have done in the past.”
Reynolds said he thinks that the nontraditional two years he has to develop is more than enough time to create a successful program.
“Player development has been on of our better sides,” Reynolds said. “Look at Naquil Jones.”
Jones, a senior guard, was named to the 2016-2017 All-PSAC Western Division second team. The senior guard transferred from Genesee Community College (N.Y.) before joining The Rock in the 2015-2016 season. Jones only started in three of 12 games in his first season, averaging 6.2 points, 1,8 rebounds and 1.1 assists, and shooting 67.7 percent from the foul line.
This season, Jones improved drastically, starting in 21 of 28 games in which he averaged 14.2 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.9 assists and in which he shot 80.0 percent from the line.
Reynolds said that he looks for the same type of improvement from all of his players returning next season. Losing only three seniors, Reynolds said that he thinks his team has the ability to make the NCAA tournament if they train well in the off-season.
“I think it’s a two-fold,” Reynolds said. “Our current players need to get better and we need to recruit to fill the gaps of the seniors we’re losing.”
The Rock will need that improvement if they want to get back into their old fashion. Reynolds is no longer a rookie in the conference and said that his team isn’t going to catch teams by surprise anymore because they see them as a threat.
“We aren’t sneaking up on anyone anymore,” Reynolds said. “When SRU comes to town, it is the biggest game.”
With Reynolds’ knowledge of status in the conference and another year with his no-longer-new players, he may have a chance to get his team back in normal fashion of a winning season and reach the team’s goal of making the NCAA tournament.