By: Jim Etling ’15
Successful organizations, both sports related or otherwise usually possess similar characteristics. Arguably, perhaps the most important attribute of a successful institution, organization or team involves a collective buy in from every member of the group. Those at the bottom must support those above them, as well as trust that those above them simultaneously have their interests in mind as well. This year’s holiday tournament more than anything demonstrated the collective buy in of everyone privileged enough to be a part of the 2013-2014 Washington and Lee men’s basketball team.
In my time here I can without hesitation say this is the most fun group of guys I have played with. No one has an ego or an ulterior motive, and more than that every person on our team wants others to succeed. Our first game against Cairn was a perfect reflection of that mentality. All season long the guys on the bench who haven’t gotten a lot of playing time, affectionately known as black squad (due to the second-hand, black practice jerseys they wear in practice) have been great about communicating and bringing energy to the guys in the regular rotation. Against Cairn, we who receive the lion’s share of the playing time felt a desire and an obligation to give the guys on black squad the playing time they have earned making it difficult in practice every day. To open the game Drew Kimberly was dominant, Andrew Franz put on a show, and in just 18 minutes of play Patrick O’Connor, the shortest-tall guy east of the Mississippi, had 10 rebounds. From there the backups stepped in and continued to execute and focus up to their potential. Darren Douglas played his usual lock-down defense, Clay McLean proved impossible to stay in front of, and Jok Asiyo managed to run the plays correctly.
With the game in hand, black squad got their opportunity not to play, but to maintain and improve upon the standard of play set by Coach Hutchinson and the players in the regular rotation. In that time four members of black squad got their first college buckets: Frank Wolfe, Ryan McDonnell, Steve Himmelburg, and Pete Rathmell. More importantly than the shots they made; however, were the standards they maintained while playing. John Martin, the undisputed leader of black squad, ensures that in practices, the guys on black-squad push everyone else and are ready to positively impact the game if called upon; against Cairn, they did just that.
The second game of the tournament against fifth-ranked Williams proved to be an excellent test for us, but unfortunately we came up just short losing 60-58. We knew coming into the game that Williams was both an athletic and a great-shooting team which again proved to be difficult to stop. That said, as coach continuously reminds us, basketball is a test of will and we made it difficult for their shooters to find a rhythm limiting them to 39% shooting. While Williams possessed offensive firepower, their defense was also stellar as they were able to prevent us from getting many easy looks at the basket. Ultimately while we lost, throughout the game we executed our offense and for the most part our defensive game plans fairly well. Towards the end of the game our defensive rotations slipped up and because we were forced to foul, Williams was able to put the game out of reach.
While Williams would have been a huge win, and we left the Warner Center extremely disappointed, we can take solace in the fact that throughout this year’s holiday tournament we played, won and lost as a team. Furthermore we have neither the time, nor the record to waste time sulking as we have a day to practice then embark to Chicago, City by the Bay to take on the University of Chicago.
Go Generals, and may the odds be ever in our favor.
Next week, we’ll have video of the Chicago trip that includes a stop at Hinkle Fieldhouse on the campus of Butler University.