The opening week of the 2015-16 season could not have gone any better for Head Coach Mark Potter and the Newman Jets Men’s Basketball Team.
After two victories last weekend in the Oklahoma Christian Classic in Edmond, Okla., Newman University beat Pittsburg State 98-89 in an impressive home opener Nov. 17 to improve to 3-0 in the young campaign.
“I didn’t know if we would be 3-0 necessarily but I knew we had a chance to be good. We have a really tough schedule so we’re not going to rest at all,” Potter said.
The early season competition should provide great preparation for the road ahead.
“When we went to Edmond over the weekend and played in the Classic we played two really good teams,” Potter said. “Pitt State beat number 12 in the country in the Classic they were in last weekend … [W]e’re very pleased where we are today”.
While Potter appreciates his team’s start he knows a lot of miscues need to be corrected.
“We made a lot of bonehead mistakes down the stretch especially (against Pitt State). Those are the things we’re going to go back to work on. We got to do that,” Potter added.
Newman had a 20-point lead in the second half against PSU but the Gorillas closed the advance to single digits late in the game. The Newman players say they have confidence they can be undefeated after the opening week of the season, but they understand there is improvement needed in all areas and they’re willing to pay the price.
“It don’t come without hard work. We definitely got to put the work in. It’s a two-way street,whatever you put in you get back out,” said senior James Pegues.
“The future is bright. We got to still keep tweaking things. The main thing is we got to play hard all the time...and staying confident and when bad things come don’t get down on ourselves, just know we can always go up,” senior Jalen Love said.
“We got a great team; (we’re) pushing every day, trying to stay focused,” senior Cortreal Corbert said. ”We’re trying to get into the top 25 to be honest but Coach Potter always says ‘One game at a time.'”
If the Jets are able to soar to reach their goals, offense will lead the way. After the opening three games of the season all five starters are averaging double-figures scoring. Pegues leads the team with 20.3 points. He also averages five rebounds per game. Love, the Division I transfer from the University of Denver, averaged 18.3 points and three assists a game. Holmes Community College junior college transfer Jarvis Williams averaged 16.7 points and 3.7 assists over the first week. Missouri State (Division I) transfer Gavin Thurman averaged 11.7 points and six rebounds. Corbert averaged 11.7 points and four assists per game.
“We’ve got some guys that really have some competitive fire in them,” Potter said. "We’ve got to get better defensively, better on the glass (rebounding) - two areas that are obviously pretty important in the game of basketball,” Potter said.
Potter said he also believes he needs to develop confidence in his players coming off the bench
“We just got to get them more time and reps in practice and get those guys feeling that same way in terms of confidence level that the other guys are feeling," he said. "I think you can see it the confidence level with most of our starters.”
The players see depth as being a strength to this year’s team.
“We have a lot of depth. We can go 10-11 deep. As the season goes on that will help us because it’s not every night that everybody’s going to be on,” Love explained.
“I think we’re a lot further ahead (than last year). We have some people who can actually come off the bench and play and give us quality minutes defense and offense. It’s definitely good this year,“ Corbert said.
“3-0 is great but we have a long way to go in this season. A lot of things can happen. I love this team. We’re going to try to keep getting better,” Potter said.
The next chance to show how the Jets are getting better is a road game Nov. 24 at Ft. Hays State University. The Tigers will also come into the in-state showdown with a perfect 3-0 record.
“We have Ft. Hays on the road. They came here last year and beat us so we definitely owe them one,” Pegues said.