Emory University men’s basketball, a team loaded with talent, experience and chemistry, look to build on the success of last season and carve a path to the NCAA Division III tournament this season.
The team finished last season with a 17-9 record, marking their 13th consecutive winning season and granting them another trip to the NCAA Division III tournament. Their run in the tournament was short-lived, though, as the Eagles suffered a 63-59 defeat to Hampden-Sydney College (Va.) in the first round.
Head coach Jason Zimmerman, who is entering his 17th season in the position, acknowledged the team’s growth from last season to this season.
“I’m a big believer that experiences don’t make you better, but evaluating those experiences and learning from them make you better,” Zimmerman said. “We looked at the things that we did well and the things that we can improve on because we’re on a mission this summer to get better, and we came back with a really good frame of mind.”
Junior guard Albert Fallas shared a similar sentiment. He believes that last season gave the team the opportunity to build chemistry.
“Last year, we had lost our two best players, and everyone was trying to figure out what their role would be and what was going to happen,” Fallas said. “This year, there’s a lot more clarity with that, and a lot of people are more comfortable with each other.”
The team has high expectations for the upcoming season, hoping to continue the winning culture Zimmerman has built during his tenure as head coach. Zimmerman applied the lessons he learned as a Division I assistant coach for Davidson College (N.C.) for over a decade to help create a winning culture at Emory.
“A good program’s a good program,” Zimmerman said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re running a fifth grade YMCA team, or you’re running an NBA team. There are some staples about being big champions and being a program that you’re proud of, and that’s the biggest piece I took away from it — taking great pride in your work and the people and the relationship you build with your players and the relationship that the players build with each other.”
Fallas said he is grateful for the lessons he has learned from his coaches and teammates over the years.
“They really taught me the standard of the culture that we have here and what Emory basketball is and what it takes to maintain that consistency of working everyday, being mentally engaged everyday and coming to work.”
The Eagles began their preseason on Oct. 31 with a 96-86 win against Augusta University (Ga.) and a 76-63 win against Georgia Southwestern State University on Nov. 5. Emory opened regular season play on Nov. 12 at Piedmont University (Ga.) with a 91-83 victory.
Reflecting on the athletes’ extensive prep for the season, Zimmerman said he is looking forward to the road ahead.
“The guys have been beating up on each other, [playing] against each other for a long time now,” Zimmerman said. “We’re excited about the test of playing somebody else and being able to compete together as a group against somebody.”
Samir Ajy (he/him) (24C) is from Atlanta, Georgia and is majoring in political science on a pre-law track. In his free time, Samir enjoys watching sports, playing ultimate frisbee and watching comedy-based movies.