Guard Michael Carney goes sky high for a layup (photo by Katie Espeseth).

Guard Michael Carney goes sky high for a layup (photo by Katie Espeseth).

by Heather Redinger

During this year’s season, UNW’s men’s basketball team has had many challenges to overcome. Head coach Tim Groaz described how the team has lost all five starters from last season, and a vast majority of the players are “young and inexperienced.” He went on to explain that this season will be a big year for learning consistency, as everyone has a new role.

At the start of the basketball season, while most UNW students were relaxing at home for Christmas break, UNW’s men’s basketball team was on the road participating in one of the most rigorous and exciting non-conference game schedules it has had in years. Groaz believed this challenging schedule would positively push the players towards cohesiveness, expose their weaknesses and give the them confidence in playing against larger schools.

“There is no substitute for experience…and through each and every game the guys are learning as a group and learning individually what it takes to be successful at this level,” Groaz explained.

Team captain Michael Carney described the non-conference schedule as having “teams that were bigger than us and had more experience.” Despite the potentially frustrating advantage on the opposing side, the team is grateful for the experience. “[This gave] us a chance to play against bigger schools from great conferences to prepare us for the conference season,” Carney added.

The team was back in action this past week with a handful of conference games.  The Eagles went 4-1 in those games, getting wins over  the College of Saint Scholastica, North Central University, Crown College and the University of Minnesota Morris. Their only loss came at the hands of Northland College, 56-57.

After this winning week of games, the Eagles now find themselves at the top of the UMAC.

According to Carney, the guys were able to learn valuable skills including quick judgment calls and teamwork.

Freshman team member Idris Aileru stated UNW’s men’s basketball team is satisfied with its experiences thus far and excited for its future. “We didn’t win as many games as we wanted, but be became closer as a team.”

The most valuable lessons learned during the non-conference games, however, were the spiritual lessons. Team leaders explained spiritual growth has been the team’s primary focus this year.

“We regularly have devotionals and Bible studies. I have seen a lot of guys trying to live their lives to glorify Christ,” said Carney. “We really want to stress how focused we are on living our lives to make Christ famous.”

Carney added that as the season plunges forward, the guys continue to work hard, hoping to win the conference and make it to the national tournament.

Regardless of the results, however, Carney encouraged fellow Eagles sports players and fans, “No matter what the outcome of the game is, if your heart is set on worshipping God, you are living a life worthy of your calling.”

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