Underestimate at your own risk

Underdog men’s basketball team dreams big for upcoming season.

Rebecca Higgins, Reporter

The Hamline men’s basketball team’s strategy relies on being underestimated. As the 10th place men’s basketball team finisher in the MIAC conference returns, they are ready to surprise opponents in their first games against Northwestern University, UW-Superior and Northland College.

“We have a pretty hard start to the season starting with Northwestern. They are really good. But we have done really well in our two scrimmages,” junior guard Bret Lukes said. “We still have a few things to shape up but come Tuesday we will be in good shape to win.”

The men’s basketball team’s improvements on their defensive end place them in a competitive spot in the conference. However, many opposing teams expect Hamline to remain defensively stagnant.

“A lot of people are overlooking us already and we’re perfectly okay with that,” junior guard T.C. Robinson said. “We are going to focus on us and the things we can control we get the end results we want.”

An advantage for the men’s basketball team is being overlooked, as opposing teams expect an easy win and end up blindsided by the Pipers’ improvements.

Last year was a stepping stone to see that the team struggled defensively. This year’s practices have centralized around defensive work as they focus on rebounding, boxing out and defensive positions. The team applies their process for improvement to their mentality for practices and scrimmages.

“We are positive about the process of getting better. We are not focusing on end results at practice or scrimmages,” Robinson said. “We focus on how we got there and improving the process.”

One way the team is improving is by the upperclassmen taking up leadership roles. Last year, Hamline had a young team and had a difficult time playing against teams with high numbers of experienced upperclassmen. This year sees a more balanced team of five first-years, five sophomores, six juniors and two seniors. Bret Lukes, T.C. Robinson and Zach Smith have stepped up taking leadership roles.

“[The new recruits] have come in with a positive attitude. They are all good basketball players and nice guys [which] helps with the coming together of the team,” Lukes said.

The newfound cohesiveness of the team allows them to communicate effectively and put them in a competitive position. With a promising season, the team anticipates placing fourth in the conference. However they do not want to limit themselves.

“I don’t want to put a ceiling on what we are capable of. I really like our group, the guys dedicate themselves,” Head Coach Jim Hayes said.

Opposing teams in the MIAC underestimate Hamline’s men’s basketball team for being short. The Pipers’ heights range from 5-feet-11-inches to 6-feet-7-inches, whereas Northwestern University’s team ranges from 6-feet-2-inches to 6-feet-10-inches. Hamline’s basketball team dedicate themselves to overcoming the height obstacle.

“We are going to work that much harder to get the rebounds,” Lukes said.

The Hamline men’s basketball team knows what they are up against and has been preparing for months. Overall the team is ready to get out on the court and compete. Hamline’s last-place spot in the preseason coaches poll presents even more opportunities for the Pipers to surprise in the 2016-17 season.

“We have been practicing for months. We are ready to play,” junior guard Zach Smith said.

Hamline travels to Wisconsin this weekend to play UW-Superior on Friday, Nov. 18 at 7:00 p.m. and Northland on Saturday, Nov. 19 at 5:00 p.m. Their first home game comes against North Central on Tuesday, Nov. 22 at 8:00 p.m.