Men’s basketball opens up season 2-2

Staff Writer

St. Edward’s University men’s basketball tipped off their new season on Nov. 8 and has a 2-2 record after dropping two straight at the Tarleton State Tournament this past weekend.

Both losses were relatively close, however, with the Hilltoppers only losing by single digits in their last defeat to Texas A&M-Commerce, 96-87.

Head coach Andre Cook and his players hope to bounce back though, and build on last season’s 18-14 record. The men are still learning how to play together, as they are still searching for their offensive identity.

Last year, the offense was run primarily through graduated-senior Shimeek Johnson, who was a high-volume shooter and tallied over 1,300 points during his tenure on the Hilltop. However, this year’s squad looks completely different with many fresh faces, including high school standouts and college transfers.

The challenge for Cook this season is to make sure these players are able to adjust to a new up-tempo style of offense.

“We want a man-defense that is able to press in order to create turnovers,” Cook said, “this way we can get easy buckets in transition.”

This new system has appealed to his players, and the entertaining up-tempo style has the men excited for the season.

“I love playing a fast-paced game where we can score in transition,” freshman Ethan Gilbert said.

With all hands on deck, the Hilltoppers will look to build on their chemistry, as well as their record this season. Now in his fifth year at St. Edward’s, Cook has built a core of players that strive for only one thing: winning.

Under the leadership of guards Frankie Mgbolu and John Rutherford Jr., the Hilltoppers have aspirations of reaching the postseason, after missing out by just one game last year.

Mgbolu, a sophomore from Tuscon, Ariz., has been referred to by Cook as the “it factor,” referring to his ability to do just about everything on the floor for the team. The go-to-guy for the Hilltoppers, however, is senior James Stukes, a tough-nosed New Yorker who excels in transition.

Under the leadership of their veteran players, the Hilltoppers are hopeful they will be able to fully integrate all five of their freshman and build a winning recipe.

Overall, the Hilltoppers have a significant chance to improve from last year’s record. The route towards reaching their first goal, a berth in the Heartland Conference Tournament, is underway with their next home game against Huston-Tillotson University on Nov. 21 at 7:30 p.m.