The men’s basketball season may have ended short, but it still found a way to end a nice note. On Feb. 26, guard, Dan Gaines ‘22 rounded out his stellar rookie campaign with another entry into the Muhlenberg record books. The freshman standout became the first men’s basketball player to be named the Centennial Conference Rookie of the Year. Gaines added to the honor as he was also selected to the All-CC second team, while teammate, Matt Gnias ‘20, received All-CC honors. While a trip to the playoffs did not come to life for the Mules, this was exactly what was needed to uplift the entire team and gear themselves for 2019-20.

Gaines made his case for the award, starting in all 25 games, hitting double figures in 22 of those contests, and ended the season with 15.4 PPG and 3.9 APG, good enough for first in the conference. Although his superb play all throughout the year made him a likely candidate, Gaines was surprised to learn that he had been bestowed with the distinction of Rookie of the Year and the first to do so in Mule history. “It was surprising and an absolute honor to find out that I was the first player in program history to receive this honor. My very first reaction was to immediately thank my teammates for putting me in a situation to succeed, especially our two seniors,” said Gaines.

Everyone in his support system wasted no time in sending their congratulations. “Both my teammates and coaches were very congratulatory and happy for me, same with my parents,” said Gaines. “My dad said, though, that I should be thanking him because he claims he taught me everything I know.”

While the incredible recognition is something to be proud of, the goal is ultimately to be a contender in the Centennial Conference playoffs and capture the elusive Centennial Conference Championship. Gaines can’t help but be reminded of the unsuccessful season, and while the awards are great, they are not his motivation for further success for himself and the entire team.  

“Although I am humbled by these honors, not making the playoffs and reaching our goals as a team is what I remember most about this season. Coming up short is my main motivation to improve my game even further so that I can help put our team in a better position to win more games next season.”

Gaines’, along with Gnias’ recognition, is certainly something to behold. However, all of it boils down to continuing the improvement of their game and once again advancing to the CC playoffs, where they hope to make a deep run. Clearly the troubles that the squad faced head-on are still on the forefront of their memory, but while that my be so, it is only motivation as they work to overcome their struggles. Returning to the hardwood next year, Gaines and Gnias are eager to compete at even a higher level and continue to be leaders on a Muhlenberg squad flooding with potential.


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