By Oliver Rockman
As the fall semester comes to an end, the men’s and women’s basketball seasons are just beginning. Both teams have been practicing since mid-October and will officially begin their seasons in the coming weeks.
The women’s team had an up-anddown season in 2013-14, finishing the year with a 16-9 overall record, the third consecutive winning season for the Eagles.
The team won its first 14 games, the school’s record for longest win streak, but struggled to take full advantage of its strong start. Junior guard Ilene Tsao feels that the problem was related to the team’s mentality.
“A lot of it had to do with team dynamics, [and having too much confidence],” Tsao said.
The team lost six seniors from last season and currently has no seniors on the roster. While Tsao acknowledges that the team is seemingly “young and inexperienced,” she thinks it puts a chip on her team’s shoulder.
“[We feel that] expectations from an outside perspective aren’t very high. It has motivated us so far and we want to prove people wrong,” Tsao said.
Losing such a large senior class puts a lot of pressure on the rest of the team to perform, but Tsao believes their contributions can be replaced.
“It will definitely be a team effort, but [I expect] Khadijah Sayyid will step up offensively,” Tsao said. “She has worked on her jumpshot and her overall offensive game, which will really help us going forward.”
The men’s team finished last season with a 19-9 record and went further in the NCAA tournament than it ever had before in school history, reaching the Elite Eight before falling to the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. The team lost four seniors, including forward Jake Davis, who set multiple school records and earned All-American honors. Replacing such a high level of production will be a challenge that Head Coach Jason Zimmerman welcomes with open arms.
“It has always been a team effort for us,” Zimmerman said. “We’ve had great players come and graduate, and we’ve been able to maintain and add to the level of basketball played. We have great young men coming back who are talented.”
Senior forward Alex Foster also looks forward to the team adjusting to a new dynamic.
“This year it’s not going be one guy that will fill the missing role of the seniors,” Foster said. “No one needs to be the exact same player. [Our team’s collection of] unique basketball skills will make filling that void a team effort. Coach [Zimmerman] is confident in all 15 of us. All of us can play on the court and are good players. [The key to our success is] finding a good balance and working well as a group.”
The team had the opportunity to travel to Germany in August as a preseason tune-up, which allowed them to have 10 days of practice beforehand. The tournament provided a unique opportunity for the players to experience the sport internationally, one that Zimmerman feels they should not take for granted.
The Eagles went 4-0 in Germany against the foreign opposition. The tournament provided the team with a healthy amount of confidence heading into the season, and Foster feels the team has a lot of confidence.
“We set the bar pretty high,” Foster said. “I think this team is pretty talented. We want to assert ourselves as the best team in the south, win a UAA (University Athletic Association) championship, and once we’re in the tournament the team can go as far as we want it to. A lot of the guys believe we can win a championship.”
The women’s team kicks off their campaign at LaGrange College (Ga.) on Nov. 15, and the men begin their season at home on Nov. 18 against Oglethorpe University (Ga.). Foster hopes to see better attendance this season for both the men’s and women’s teams.
“We don’t really have the best attendance, but hopefully we can get some fans out there,” Foster said. “We will keep winning games for Emory.”
– By Oliver Rockman, Staff Writer