Oct. 26, 2012
Bearcats keep a tough mind-set as camp ends
By David Boyce
A year ago, the Northwest Missouri State men’s basketball team went from not reaching the conference tournament to Co-MIAA Regular Season Champions and advancing to the South Central Regional.
The Bearcats finished 22-7 overall and staked their claim for a season as one of the elite teams in the MIAA.
The trick now is maintaining the success. The treat for the basketball program is it has players like senior guards DeShaun Cooper and Bryston Williams and junior post players such as Kyle Schlake and Grant Cozad to keep the Bearcats at or near the top.
Still, the players have to experience increased intensity from other teams to know how it truly feels to be the top dog everybody is trying to knock off.
“We tell them that, but they don’t actually understand it,” said Northwest coach Ben McCollum. “They will learn, hopefully, not the hard way.”
The first few weeks of practice is geared to re-enforcing the fundamentals, conditioning and setting a tone for the season.
Early on, McCollum likes the way the Bearcats are practicing half-court defense.
The offense needs some work.
“I think our half-court defense is far along right now,” McCollum said. “All those toughness kind of things are there.
“Right now our offense we really need to take care of the ball and get quality shots. We are a work in progress there.”
Despite the loss of center Jake Reinders and forward Kyle Haake, the Bearcats return plenty of experienced players who understand what it takes to win in the MIAA.
“It gives them confidence,” McCollum said of last season’s success. “There is a fine line between having a false sense of confidence and true confidence. We are still trying to find that and how to handle success and not be complacent and understand what got you to that level. We are trying to find that in the preseason.”
During this preseason portion of the season, McCollum wants to see leadership developed.
“When we huddle up, who is talking and are they responding to that person,” McCollum said. “I think we have good options for it with DeShaun and Bryston and a few upper classmen.
“I think it is extremely important. In basketball, you don’t have stoppage. It has to be mid play or a couple of seconds when you take the ball out of bounds. In those situations, you have to have communication and be able to handle adversity. That’s how you win games in the league.
“Everybody has talent. It is who is mentally tougher.”
The Bearcats have time to find those leaders. However, the games are less than a week away. Northwest plays an exhibition game at Missouri on Monday.
Northwest will then have about 10 days to prepare for its regular-season opener on Nov. 11 at Bearcat Arena against Graceland.
“It is more how do you respond to success,” McCollum said about the upcoming season. “Are you tough enough to respond to the success we had last year? Keeping at the top is where we want to keep it. We don’t think about it. We think about the process of keeping it there.”
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