Men’s basketball team continues to win games, 16-2 record

The St. Edward’s University men’s basketball team are turning heads, as they are in sole possession of first place in the Heartland Conference standings with a current record of 16-2. 

A preseason poll by conference coaches and sports information directors originally predicted the team to finish ninth in conference, yet the men’s basketball team finds themselves ranked just outside the top 25 teams in the nation by the National Association of Basketball Division II National Poll. They were previously ranked No. 15. It was just the second time in school history they were nationally ranked, the first since 2008.

Handling the ball well and keeping healthy this season is a goal junior captain Frankie Mgbolu has for his team.

Mgbolu added that the team’s goals include staying in first place in order to host the conference tournament, win the conference and make the national tournament.

“This year’s team is closer together and everyone plays their role,” he said. “Everyone is doing the right thing, binding to the goals and believing in each other.”

In the previous five seasons, Head Coach Andre Cook has led St. Edward’s to a mediocre  60-77 record, a .438 winning percentage. 

The most wins his team has ever won was the 2012-2013 season, when they went 18-14. However, they weren’t able to build off that success  the next season as they finished with a disappointing 10-16 record.

“It has taken me a few years to figure out the league. It’s taken a few years to figure out recruiting in Texas and what is the exact type of student-athlete that works here at St. Edward’s,” Cook said. “ We are getting closer to getting that right. The culture of the program is getting closer to where I want it to be.” 

The 2013-2014 season was expected to be a promising one, however, after injuries occurred to senior James Stukes and underclassmen starters Frankie Mgbolu, and Trey Lindsey, the pressure was on the freshman to carry the team. Despite, the team’s battling efforts, including a 3-7 record in games decided by five points or less, they finished the year with a 10-16 record.

The excitement is back with the return of team captains, Mgbolu and Lindsey. Cook believes the team’s recent improvements and advantages compared to last year are quite simple. 

“Our freshmen became sophomores,” he said.  

Starting the season strong, the Hilltoppers started a winning streak that tied the school’s record, going 12-0, although they lost three exhibition games.

“They’re the squad that has all the pieces to a puzzle and, as we can see, are doing a great job of putting that puzzle together,” former basketball player and last year’s leading scorer Stukes said.

If the men’s basketball team keeps protecting the court at home and winning road games, accolades and accomplishments are bound to be earned this season.

“It’s good for the guys to see that they’re getting national recognition. All our other (athletic) teams are doing well and they’re ranked, so we felt as a basketball team that we had to do our part,” Cook said. “We’ve got to get our program to that point. We’re not there yet, to where some of the other programs are, but this start helps for sure.”