Despite semifinal exit, returning core moves to take next step


Men’s Basketball

It’s been a few weeks since SEU men’s basketball was eliminated in the semifinal matchup of the Heartland Conference Tournament, and while it may have left a bitter taste in the mouth of many players, the arrow is pointing upward for next season.

Head Coach Andre Cook has set up his team for success with many young players returning next season.

“[Forward] Sean Phillips got back from injury and was able to play in the tournament. [Forward] Cory Sherville is a freshman, starting both games in the tournament. [Guard] Ryan Garza played key minutes. Those are three true freshman that we’re expecting great things from,” Coach Cook said.

Having been inches from the tournament final, the men within the locker room understand just how close they are to taking the next step once the 2018-19 season tips off.

“We were a play away from being in the championship game,” junior guard Landon Goesling said. “Of course it’s a heartbreaking loss, but there was a lot of confidence in the locker room afterwards, moving forward and trying to get there next year.”

With senior guard Sean Watkins having played his final game in an SEU uniform, the team will attempt to make a run at the championship with a new point guard handling the keys to the offense, freshman Ryan Garza.

“He’s (Watkins) 5’9”, he’s small in stature, but he leaves a big void in the relationship that we had, the way the guys look at him,” Coach Cook said. “We run a lot of offenses and sets and to know where everybody is… Ryan Garza is clearly smart enough to do it.”

Coach Cook clearly understands that Garza is ready to take on the challenge, pointing to his need for perfection and desire to prove others wrong as a main driving force for the kid from Edinburg, Texas. To Garza’s benefit, he won’t be headed into next season blind and alone.

Goesling, who earned All-Heartland Conference First Team and All-Region First Team honors on his way to a record-setting season, will be at his side to ease the transition as leadership will naturally shift onto his shoulders.

“Now I have to not only [lead] by my actions on the court and how I play on the court, but I have to become a vocal leader on this team because that’s what Sean did for us a lot of the times. Always talking to us in practice and getting the guys going,” Goesling said.

As the single-season record holder for most made free throws in SEU and Heartland Conference history, Goesling will spend the near future healing his body from the wear and tear from the season in an effort to remain as efficient for his team.

With many returning pieces, Goesling knows the team has one ultimate goal in mind for next season.

“It’s definitely to cut down the nets, man… Going to the conference championship and cutting down the nets.”