One month removed from the start of the 2021-22 season, the pieces are starting to fall into place for the Muhlenberg men’s basketball team. After a year and a half hiatus and the unfortunate departures of two classes, the group has come together to form a cohesive unit. Since their arrival on campus in late August, the team has worked hard to be as effective as they possibly can be both on and off the court.
Although members of both the freshmen and sophomore classes have never played a minute of collegiate basketball, team members are working hard to make up for lost time, and will be in good company as many of their counterparts throughout Division III canceled play during the 2020-21 season due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Guard Matt Kempter ‘23 explained that communication seems to be one of the team’s strongest assets. “As a group, we are in constant contact. Whether it’s in our team GroupMe, texting or eating together, the team is always in some sort of communication.”
For the team’s juniors and seniors, the start of the season is bittersweet. While it represents an opportunity to return to play for the first time since losing to Swarthmore College, 65-62, in the Centennial Conference tournament in February 2020, it also is the seniors’ last opportunity to play for a conference championship.
Moreover, it remains to be seen how the upperclassmen will handle stepping into leadership roles after largely holding less prominent roles the last time they wore their Muhlenberg jerseys.
As a result of the unusually high rate of turnover, older members of the team have put on a full court press to make sure the group’s newer members feel comfortable. “As a team, we have worked hard to create a great environment for the newer guys to come in and feel comfortable,” said guard Nate Henty Brown ‘22. “Although we weren’t able to play last year, we, upperclassmen, had opportunities to get to know the rest of the now-sophomore class quite well.”
Many team members in the class of 2024 used the year off as an opportunity to learn from the team’s veterans. “I have to give credit to each of them as I don’t think I have ever seen so many questions being asked by our boys as they have tried to soak up as much knowledge/experience as they can get from our upperclassmen,” Henty Brown said.
In spite of there not being any live play, those who were on campus were still able to work on their skills together. “We were practicing five or more days a week and almost each and every day we came in with a high-level of intensity focused on getting each person better. This 18-month layoff without any games also allowed the team to focus on other things such as our bodies and injury prevention as well as basketball skill work,” said Kempter.
While some may worry that some players might be slow to start the season due to such a long period of inactivity, early indications from the team’s practices show that the players are not only rejuvenated, but they are clearly hungry and eager to win.
With the growth of the team’s star players complemented by the addition of two promising new classes, there is reason to believe that the team can compete for the top spot within the conference this year.
The Mules will kick off their season on Nov. 5 with a home game against Moravian in Memorial Hall.
Members of the group have expressed optimism about the possibility of continuing their forward momentum, as the group reached the Centennial Conference playoffs for the first time in seven years in 2020.
Henty Brown said, “Expectations are very high this season. I think that a Centennial Conference championship is something that the seniors and juniors have had their eyes on for a couple of years now and we try to make an effort, particularly as upperclassmen, to bring that mindset with us to the gym each time we are there.”