The Emory University men’s basketball team is set to tip off their 2022-2023 season this week. The Eagles are looking to build off their 20-6 campaign last season, which ended with a second-round loss to Wabash College (Ind.) during the 2022 NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball Tournament.    

This year’s team will contain a melting pot of youth and veteran experience: six of the 14 players on the Eagles’ roster will be newcomers.  The incoming freshmen will look to contribute to the ongoing success and storied reputation the team has built. Freshman guard Benjamin Pearce cited the culture as the ultimate influence on his decision to attend Emory.  

“Everybody wants to work hard,” Pearce said. “We all just want to win. So that’s definitely what I was looking for coming into college, going somewhere where I’ll have the opportunity to compete for championships immediately.” 

Head coach Jason Zimmerman praised Pearce and the other newcomers for their hard work and effort thus far, noting they would play an essential role in the Eagles’ success this season.  

“We’re going to be counting on those six guys this year to help our team and to be key contributors throughout the year at some point,” Zimmerman said.  

Zimmerman is entering his 16th season as head coach at Emory. He has led the team to six University Athletic Association (UAA) Championships, nine consecutive NCAA Tournaments and is the coach with the most wins in school history with an all-time record of 256-114. Additionally, his staff has been named the UAA Coaching Staff of the Year six times. 

A team can have all the talent in the world, but it won’t mean anything without a strong culture as the foundation. Zimmerman credited the team’s alumni and current upperclassmen for the lessons and leadership traits they have passed down to the underclassmen. 

“It’s something that our guys take a great deal of pride in,” Zimmerman said. “We talk about [making] nine NCAA Tournaments in a row. The only way that happens is if you pass those lessons down. It’s not just one class.”  

The Eagles lost key seniors in guards Matthew Schner, Nick Stuck and Romin Williams.  Zimmerman said it would be essential for the current seniors to take what they learned from these teammates and pass them down to the current underclassmen. Senior guard Max Fried has fully embraced this responsibility and looks forward to taking on the leadership role.

“If we’ve learned anything from last year, it’s that we need to stick to what our culture does best, which is work hard, trust each other, commit to each other and care for each other,” Fried said. “That’s why you see anywhere that has anything to do with our program, the letters TCC [Trust, Commit, Care] are present because that’s our code and that’s what we live and stand by.”  

The men’s basketball team huddles together during a break in the action during a game against Brandeis University (Mass.) on Jan. 28, 2022. (Natalie Sandlow/Staff)

Fried also added that the team’s infusion of youth, size and athleticism will benefit them down the stretch, and Zimmerman agreed that the current roster benefits from its versatility and range of playing experience.

The six newcomers will “bring energy and a new view of basketball and a new energy to our team, a new energy to our program,” Zimmerman said. 

Last season, the Eagles averaged 16.8 assists per game and 40.8 rebounds per game. Additionally, winning games on the road and in neutral sites is something every team with championship aspirations must do if they want to achieve their goals. Emory’s head-to-head record and second round appearance in the NCAA Tournament last season can be attributed in part to their road record, as they finished 8-4 away from Emory. They may not have the experience yet, but Zimmerman believes that will come along as the season progresses. 

They’re joining something that’s really special, but they also have special talents to give to us and that we can give to them being part of the program,” Zimmerman said.

Other notable returners include sophomore forward Logan Shanahan, who averaged 7.6 points per game and started in 11 games during his freshman campaign, and senior forwards Mason Johnson and Greg Lawrence. Like Fried, they will take on larger leadership roles and contribute to the team’s success, both on and off the court. 

The Eagles will open their season with a home game against Piedmont University (Ga.) on Nov. 8 at the Woodruff Physical Education Center (WoodPEC). Players and coaches alike are excited for the rest of their games and looking forward to playing at the WoodPEC in front of their friends, peers and family.  

“There’s been some outstanding crowds for athletic events this fall, and we look forward to continuing on into the winter sports . . . and keep[ing] that school spirit alive,” Zimmerman said.

Fried tied the team’s success at home to the culture at Emory and is ready for the season to start.  

“We win – that’s what we do when we play at home, we win. That’s instrumental to what [Zimmerman] has built in his 15 years here now,” Fried said. “I’m excited. Since the loss last March we’ve been counting down the days until we got to open up against Piedmont. I’m excited to see all the fans there.”