March 21, 2019

Men’s hoops quickly turn focus to next season after painful loss

The mood in the locker room was a somber one for the Webster University men’s basketball team following its last game of the season, a 70-69 setback to Eureka College. Yet even in defeat, multiple members of the team kept one goal in mind for the future.

Each of the starters from this year’s team – a team that tied a school record for 20 wins, set the single-game assist record (42), and had four players average 13 or higher – will all be returning for a potential redemption season in 2019-20.

Players such as junior guard Blake Ferrell and sophomore guard Elijah Macias said they felt confident that if each player came back with a bit more skill, they were confident in their aspirations to return to this level of play.

“Together, we bring out the best in each other on and off the court,” Ferrell said. “This is where brotherhood comes in as being the equation of our success. We’re unsatisfied with the way our season ended, and we want to be able to get back to that point.”

Men’s basketball head coach Coach Bunch took that comment a step further with junior guard Josh Johnson, the leading scorer of the Gorloks with 18 points per game. Bunch commended Johnson’s leadership and said his year-to-year improvements in his game have not gone unnoticed.

“He is probably the hardest working kid that I have ever gotten to coach,” Bunch said of Johnson. “He works so hard each day. So to be able to see his hard work pay off the way it does, it is rewarding.”

Along with Johnson and his 18 points per night, the Gorloks will also be returning junior forward Enrique Tankins, who averaged 14.1 points per game. This past season, Tankins also became only the second player in Gorloks history to complete a triple-double (18 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists).

Rounding out the rest of the returning starting five are: Rodson Etienne, who became only the third player in Gorloks history to piece together a 40-point game.

Nigel Wilcox, another returning starter, joined Etienne in that very game as the first duo to ever score 30 points each in a single game.

The last starter is Aron Hopp, a two-sport athlete who had seven games of double-digit scoring, including a pivotal 12 points in that loss to Eureka College in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC) Championship game on Feb. 23.

If all of last season’s roster returns, the team will have 13 of its 14 players returning next season.

Two weeks after that loss, players are already back into the gym, and are anticipating an even better campaign in the following season. Sophomore Elijah Macias said vibes were initially low, considering how much time the team put into this exclusive season. Even so, he said the team had plenty to be proud of and plenty to work at in the meantime.

“Next year, we expect to have a better year since everyone is coming back,” Macias said. “That isn’t always guaranteed, so we have to work harder to have an even better season.”

If the Gorloks needed any more convincing on the potential of next season, they can look at the 2018-19 All-SLIAC selections, which included two Gorloks, Johnson and Wilcox, as first-team picks, Tankins as a second-team pick, and Etienne as a third-team pick. Bunch was also named as the SLIAC Coach of the Year for the fifth time in his 17-year coaching career.

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