In one week, The Rock men’s basketball team will step back onto the court as they begin the start of a long season with one goal in mind: making their return to the PSAC playoffs. But there has been a lot of work that has led up to where they are now.
From the time they walked off the court in February after their loss to California (Pa.) to now, the task is just getting back to the playoffs.
“We’re generally pretty excited, we like the group we have, and we enjoy being around them and coaching them,” head coach Ian Grady said. “We’re optimistic about what this season will bring.”
The team, which was projected to finish fifth in the PSAC West, is not paying any attention to the outside noise. But those who are returning look to claim their first playoff win. The Rock will return multiple players, who have twice made it to the PSAC playoffs, but had an exit in the first round of action.
Both of those games have been on the road. Neither was extremely close.
Lucky for The Rock, they have many veterans coming back to help guide the incoming players.
“It’s always a big help having players return, because they can help the newcomers get used to things and how we operate,” Grady said.
Of the newcomers, there are three freshmen. Having the likes of multiple veteran players helps, but none will help more than Amante Britt.
“[Amante] is back and he’s been a three-year starter, he provides great leadership on the floor and in the games,” Grady said.
Britt has a good chance to break multiple records this season. As of now, he is fifth on the all-time list of games started. Last season, he started to take control and run the floor a lot more. He averaged 13 points a game and lead the team in assists. He also scored double figures in 22 of the 28 games he played in.
“It’s great to have a point guard with that type of leadership and skill, it makes things a lot easier when you have players in that position that can lead and be an extension of the coaching staff on the floor,” Grady said.
He’s also benefited from having multiple big men to help him out during his time here. Last year it was Tyler Fredrick. With Fredrick gone, that leaves a hole, but Grady is confident that it’s one that can be filled.
“We think that Lashon Lindsey has an opportunity to step into a big role, I think that’s the great part about keeping players in the program,” Grady said. “They can step into bigger roles as they grow and mature, so we’re really looking for him to step up.”
Lindsey, who is listed as a junior, has been with the team since 2019. He has had time to play under the likes of Fredrick and Micah Till. But he has also gotten a lot of playing time. Grady feels that he will be someone to watch on the court this season.
The team also benefits from being able to be together for nearly a whole semester before they even step onto the court for their first game of the season. But Grady acknowledges that is a long season, but also feels that they’re more than ready for it.
“It is a long season, as you know, we start from the first week of class in the fall and it goes throughout both semesters all the way to March,” Grady said. “So, I think it’s important that we prepare them for on the court, but also that they have an academic balance as well.”
Grady also knows that some of the new players will not be able to fully understand how good the PSAC is before they are able to play in it. Especially with new transfers coming in.
“I think people from the outside or people that you’re recruiting don’t understand how good the league is, especially on western side of the conference,” Grady said. “We communicate [how good it is] in every session, and that’s vital, because we need to leave no doubt when we leave the practice facility.”
Overall, the goals have been set for the season. Some have been kept inside the locker room, others are plain for everyone to see.
“We keep a lot of our goals in house, but I would say that we’re really excited and ready to get to it,” Grady said.
As they start games, the biggest goal is going to be to win and do it in a way that makes the university proud.
“It’s important for us to get going early and win, but also to represent the university in a first-class matter,” Grady said.