Basketball team posts up with eight new faces

As the St. Edward’s University men’s basketball team gears up for the 2012-2013 season, there is an overwhelming sense of improvement and optimism, thanks to improved team chemistry and eight new players.

The players and coaches feel that this year’s basketball team has come a long way since last year’s 11-15 overall record.

“We have really high expectations, and we really feel like we can hold them up,” freshman forward Jae Ricketts said.

Ricketts helped lead John Paul II High School to the TAPPS 5A State Championship game during his senior season and wants to keep that winning tradition going. Ricketts is a consistent double-threat averaging 15 points and nine rebounds during his final year before coming to St. Edward’s.

This year’s team has eight new faces, including Ricketts, and each one of them brings something to the team. Basketball is a game of trust, and it involves all five players working as one unit. Players must have faith in each other’s ability to fulfill their roles on the court.

In his fourth year at St. Edward’s, Head Coach Andre Cook is not worried about team chemistry regardless of the new additions. He only sees the team a few hours a day, so he encourages the older players to show leadership and bring the team together when he was not present.

Senior guard and forward Shameek Johnson is a team leader who put in serious minutes last year, starting all but one game. His ability to play with such intensity, but still keep things light in the locker room makes him well-liked among the younger players.

“I’m more comfortable by leading by example… just working hard so they will too,” Johnson said. Johnson’s philosophy sets the tone for the whole team. After staying in Austin this summer to work out, Johnson is poised to have a phenomenal senior season. With the help of junior guard Zilijan Jones and a talented supporting cast, Johnson has high hopes for this season.

“I want to win the national tournament… so making the playoffs, winning the Heartland [Conference], and gaining home court [advantage] are goals for us,” said Johnson.

Cook acknowledges that this season will not be easy. However, he is confident that the team’s unique style of play and commendable work ethic will help them get through those games together.

Cook said he had a great summer that came with an induction into the Capital District Basketball Hall of Fame in his home state of New York.

“It is quite an honor for me,” Cook said. Past inductees include Pat Riley and Jimmer Fredette.

In his three seasons at St. Edward’s, Cook has led the team to a 32-46 record. He has produced two first-team All-Heartland Conference players, an honorable mention All-Heartland Conference player and one all-region performer.

Cook feels that the program here at St. Edward’s is making good progress towards reaching their final objective. There is an enormous amount of trust between the coaches and the players this year. Even with the difficult schedule, everyone is excited about what this season has in store.