AU men’s basketball looks to build on season’s success

MBballThe Aurora University men’s basketball season may have ended last week with a loss in the semi-finals of the NACC Conference Tournament, but the Spartans are already looking forward to building on their success for next season.

The Spartans, who finished the season with an 18-9 overall record and tied for third in the conference, overcame major obstacles at the beginning of the season.

“We came into the season as a young team with only one senior, and though we gelled well together, we faced serious injuries with top players. I was proud that other guys stepped up and filled the void,” said Head Coach James Lancaster.

For Lancaster’s team, there was quite a bit of uncertainty in the pre-season, and high expectations from coaches and fans. “Coming into the season, we had so many question marks because of all the lost production from the previous year,” said junior Gavin Walker. “We had new faces mixed in with some returners and had to come together as one to pursue our goals. As a team, we had group discussions to learn to adjust to each other as individuals. Facing this issue is what really brought us together.”

And come together they did. The Spartan season included a win against North Central College, who at the time was ranked No. 6, as well as two regular season victories over Marian University and a tournament win over rival Benedictine University. Additionally, junior Brandon Smith and sophomore Kalmon Stokes were named NACC First Team All-Conference.

For the Spartans, having the support of AU fans is essential to their on-court energy. “I love our fans, and I love the campus atmosphere on game days. The football and lacrosse teams have supported us well this year, and we support them when they are in season,” said senior Scott Laskowski. “AU students, parents, faculty and staff have been great fans for all four years of my college career, and I wouldn’t want any other fans but them.”

With the 2013-2014 season complete, Lancaster and his team are now looking forward to building for another year. “Over the year, leadership on the team evolved, and now we’re getting excited to see how the team bonds together in off-season,” said Lancaster. “As we add new, younger players, our chemistry needs to continue in strength and conditioning.”

Walker echoes Coach Lancaster’s excitement. “We are going to come back stronger and begin another journey. We want to build from the foundation that we have started this year and turn it into success,” said Walker. “With the majority of our team returning, we are ready to take on this off-season and improve. And, what I am personally looking forward to is the complete journey of a whole season with my teammates.”