The year 2021 will be quite the unusual season for the Oklahoma Christian University men’s basketball team. After graduating seven seniors last year the Eagles also had two key players go down this season due to injuries. On top of that the team has three freshman starters this season, so 2021 will be a fairly new look for the Eagles.
Senior Harrison Martin commented on this year’s roster.
“It’s been interesting having so many new teammates and building a new chemistry together,” Martin said. “They’ve done a great job of getting used to everybody and they’ve grown up fast.”
The Eagles have not only had to adjust to the new lineup, but they’ve also been learning to adjust to issues regarding COVID-19. The team only traveled with eight players on the roster in their win on Monday, Feb. 1 against the Arkansas-Fort Smith Lions due to the amount of players currently in quarantine.
Martin spoke on the issues regarding COVID-19.
“Everybody has had to stay ready,” Martin said. “Everyone’s had to stay on their toes. We played everybody on Tuesday. Every single guy on the team has contributed at some point this season.”
Although COVID-19 has complicated the season, it has created unforeseen benefits for the team.
“COVID has made it a more team-oriented season,” Martin said. “It sucks, but it’s really made everyone have to do their best.”
Head Coach Kendre Talley spoke a little more on some of the team’s struggles this year.
“We’ve only had our full roster for our first two games. Right after that we had a guy get in a car wreck and then we started getting hit with the COVID stuff,” Talley said.
After a 12-day hiatus of games being cancelled and postponed due to COVID-19, the Eagles picked up their second straight win on Monday, Feb. 1, which brings them to 3-8 on the season.
Martin spoke about improvements made from their last game.
“I think the biggest thing for us has been listening and locking in on plays,”Martin said. “OC’s identity as a team is a defensive team. We run a very structured zone with specific rules involved and everyone really has to buy into it for it to work. If one person doesn’t do their job then the whole thing looks like trash.”
Talley explained the reason for switching from a man-to-man defense to a zone defense this season.
“Last year I think we were No. 1 in defense. This year just with the numbers, we only had eight players on Monday and only eight players for the next two games,”Talley said. “We’ve been kind of forced to play zone and the guys are getting more comfortable with it now.”
Martin credits their 19-point win against Arkansas-Fort Smith to the Eagles’ defense.
“That was probably our best defensive game. That was a big change,” Martin said. “When everybody is on the same page that defense works great.”
Martin talked more on the team’s defensive success from Monday night.
“Forcing bad shots, making them eat up time on the shot clock, that’s how we wanted to play since we’re so shorthanded,” Martin said. “We wanted it to be long possessions and not a whole lot of running, which worked out for us.”
Talley wants his team to remember that winning feeling they had on Monday night and carry it into the next games.
“A lot of times after a win a coach will tell you to forget about it and focus on the next game,” Talley said. “I told those guys to still think about that game and carry it over into the next games because we’re still gonna have eight guys, and with the intensity and everything from Monday night, I couldn’t have asked for more from them.
The Eagles play their next game tonight against Midwestern State at home as they look to improve their record to 4-8 on the season.