Coming off an impressive campaign during the 2017-18 season in which the men’s basketball team finished with a 21-9 overall record and second in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Western Division, it is fair to say that expectations were elevated for the men in Green and White heading into the new season. Despite having the talent to compete with the top teams in the PSAC, as the new season rolled in, so did trials and tribulations.
Just a week before The Rock was set to play their first match of the season against Notre Dame College, longtime assistant Ian Grady was named the acting head coach, after serving as the assistant coach for the past six seasons. From that point on, the team had a choice. One option was to succumb to the pressure and let a season full of promise and potential slip away while the other was to band together and become stronger than ever before. Clearly, the Green and White chose the latter.
“In the beginning of the season, it was a very emotional time,” Grady said. “That first weekend we went down to West Virginia and we played two very good teams. Two close, emotional games and we came up on the short end.”
Despite a dismal 2-5 start to the season, Coach Grady and the young men on the team recognized the opportunity that still lied ahead of them. With 21 games remaining on the schedule, 20 of them being conference showdowns, the season was far from over.
“I think we took a step back over the next few games as well, but I think sometimes you gotta step back before you go forward,” Grady said.
And move forward they did. Over the next 11 games, The Rock would average 84.4 points per game while only allowing 70.8 with a signature win against no. 3 ranked Indiana University (Pa.) in a 74-69 thriller at Morrow Field House on January 12. Since then, SRU has looked nearly unstoppable, as star forward Micah Till continues to dominate, averaging 21.3 points and 10.3 rebounds this season. Although Till has put up monstrous numbers all season, he remains humble in his approach to the game, giving insight as to why he and the team have enjoyed so much success lately.
“The coaches have been putting me in spots to score, other teammates have been stepping up and doing their part,” Till said. “It’s all been working well, and they make me look good even when I’m bad. I think this team has a cohesiveness between us and we want to play hard together, and we want to win for each other and for Coach Grady.”
The wins are certainly coming by a bit easier now for the talented squad, as The Rock have kept their nose to the grindstone and have been able to block out the noise. Now, the 2-5 start is a distant memory as the team registered their 11th straight victory this past Tuesday against the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, showing repeatedly their resilience and ability to overcome adversity.
“The team got through it and stayed together. They persevered through it and they are having success and it’s starting to show,” Grady said.
Looking forward, Slippery Rock has 10 remaining games, which are all PSAC showdowns. Even though the Green and White have rattled off 11 consecutive victories, Coach Grady knows his team still has much more work to do.
“We need to not get complacent, treat each like a new day and not take anybody lightly,” he said. “We have to do what we do and that’s our routines, practices, and preparation for the games. We need to stay together, and it might sound repetitive, but it’s easier said than done but if our guys can stay together I think the sky is the limit.”
If one thing is for certain, it is that this team has come a long way since their first game against Notre Dame College. The men’s basketball season thus far has emulated what it means to never give up and persevere. As Micah Till and company head into the final stretch of the season, the Slippery Rock men’s basketball team will undoubtedly be a force to be reckoned with.