Believe it or not, the end of fall term brings the beginning of basketball season. This Friday, Nov. 9, the Lawrence University men’s basketball team sees its first real action of the season as they travel to the University of Wisconsin – Superior to take on the University of Wisconsin – Stout. They then play the host Superior on Saturday.
The basketball team this year will have a different feel as Coach Filzen took over the program last spring. He and his staff are working very hard to institute a culture of success on the team. Coach Filzen describes what he is trying to do, saying, “The theme of our program is the phrase “best, nothing less.” Our expectation for our guys is that they bring their best to the table every single day in every area of life. This standard is true on and off the court. We are expecting a high level of excellence in everything we do. On the basketball court, it means that we are going to push ourselves to the limit and to get better every single day. We are going to seek to play with a high level of energy and effort. There are many other traits we emphasize underneath the theme of best, nothing less. Some examples of these traits include, ‘The best do the right thing when it is hard’ and ‘The best put others before themselves.’ Overall, our culture is about bringing our best to the table in every way that we can control.”
The members of the men’s team have really bought into this message as senior George Mavrakis explained, “Everything’s on another level this year. The intensity, focus and commitment from everyone has really elevated with Coach Filzen. He expects ‘best nothing less’ and we’ve all 100 percent bought into it.”
This theme is also reflected in the team’s goals for the season. First-year student Jeremey Burton is looking forward but also staying in the moment saying, “I think a good team goal we have is to make the conference tournament and to be playing our best basketball around that time. However, right now our only goal is to get a little bit better every day.”
Even though the actual competition season starts this weekend, the Vikings have been working hard in practice, on the court and in the weight room. First-year student Cody Ripato says, “Practices have been very tough, but overall they’re going well. They’re up-tempo, much like our style will be this year. They are very competitive overall.”
Coach Filzen echoed this sentiment as he added, “Practices have been going well. I have been pleased with the progress our guys have made. They have really started to buy into our culture, how we want to practice and our style of play. We have a very long way to go but I feel very good about the start. There has been a lot of learning going on as well. Our coaching staff is learning our players and the athletes are learning a whole new system and new expectations. I feel pretty good about the progress we have made so far.”
The new style of play and team culture is not the only thing that the team has had to adjust to this year. The roster features five first-year students and only two seniors. Every Lawrentian scholar-athlete knows that the transition into college athletics is not always easy as you adjust to more challenging academics, time management and a more demanding athletic environment. This has been the experience of Burton and Ripato as well. Burton described his transition saying, “Transitioning to college life in general has been both tough and exciting. Learning how to properly manage my time has probably been the biggest key for me so far. The transition to college basketball has also been exciting because all your teammates and opponents are bigger, stronger and more skilled. The pace of the game along with the overall intensity is much higher than in high school.” Ripato has also had challenges as he added, “The transition from a high school athlete to a college athlete has been a very tough one. I’m learning how to handle all of my personal responsibilities by myself as well as take care of my business in the classroom as well as on the court. From a basketball standpoint, the college game is so much faster and more physical. I’m learning how to make reads quicker, which is challenging but it’s an adjustment I will be able to make as the season progresses and I get more experience.”
Mavrakis hopes to be a guiding light for the young team as he says, “My personal goal is to be the best teammate I can be, especially towards the younger guys. I remember being the only freshman and needing some older guys to lean on in my first season and year of college.”
Despite the new program and the transition challenges, the team is excited for the start of the season and they are aiming high. Coach Filzen summed it up best saying, “I am really looking forward to getting this journey started with our first game this Friday. Our team has worked very hard all preseason and are very excited to have the opportunity to compete. We are working hard to get this program rolling again and are embracing that challenge. I think that is what I am looking forward to the most, the opportunity to try and accomplish something that has not happened here in a number of years… namely for us to get back into the conference tournament and to see if we can make a run. We know that this won’t be easy, but our guys are working hard to make that a reality.”
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