Although the 2018-19 men’s basketball season is nearly over for the Muhlenberg Mules, the team has a bright future ahead in the coming years with a loaded freshman class. Currently, the team sits right around the .500 mark with a 12-11 record this season. However, with a total of seven first-year players on this year’s roster, the team will be left in good hands following the departure of 2019’s two graduating seniors, Brendan Hughes and Erik Werheim. One such freshman player who has stood out this year is guard Dan Gaines.
Gaines, who hails from Colts Neck, N.J., is already a two-time Centennial Conference Player of the Week in his first season on the court for the Mules. In 23 games played thus far this season with an average of 33.6 minutes per game, Gaines has posted stellar numbers. He is putting up 14.6 points per game, 4.7 rebounds per game, and 3.9 assists per game. Despite being one of the youngest members of the roster, how has Gaines been able to maintain such a high level of play on a roster with several talented upperclassmen as well?
“I was able to sustain a high level of play because of the leadership and confidence my teammates continually give me day in and day out,” said Gaines. “Whether it be Brendan [Hughes], Erik, Matt, or anyone else, they consistently push me to play my best every day in practice and that has translated into the games.”
Playing on a team with just one junior and two seniors, Gaines has already been able to step up for the Mules, both on the court as a basketball player and as a team leader as well. While he credits the upperclassmen for helping him adjust to the game of college basketball, it’s enabled Gaines to take on some of these qualities as well, typically seen by just the more veteran members of the roster.
Additionally, the coaching staff, led by second-year head coach Kevin Hopkins, has given every and all opportunities for the freshman, including Gaines, to reach their highest potential on the men’s squad.
“The coaching staff has guided me and helped me grow as a player mainly because of how they always hold me accountable, whether that is in practices or games,” said the first-year player out of Colts Neck High School. “If I mess up a play or make a bad decision, they will point it out and tell me how I can improve upon my mistakes. This has kept me focused on becoming the best player I can be.”
Considering the sheer amount of first and second year players on the Mules roster, any success seen this season is only expected to improve over the coming years. The team is lucky to have a young, new coaching staff that is leading a young group of men determined to win. Gaines and his teammates have proven this season that the future is certainly promising for the basketball program.
“I think the future of this team is bright because of the depth at each position,” he said. “Whether it be dealing with injuries or giving someone a quick break during games, anyone on the team is capable of coming in and contributing. In addition, the leadership from the senior class has taught everyone what it takes to win at this level.”
The men’s basketball team concludes its regular season schedule with a home game against Gettysburg College on Saturday, Feb. 16, at four p.m.