While most students were still on winter break, the Emerson men’s basketball team was already hitting the court.
The team competed in its New England Men’s and Women’s Athletic Conference opener against Babson College, and then in three more conference games. Emerson has posted a 3-2 NEWMAC record so far this season, the same record it had at this time a year ago.
Eli Kel-Abrams, a senior captain, said his team still needs to improve its stamina to become more competitive in conference.
“We’ve had stretches against WPI and Babson where we’re playing basketball we want to play,” said the guard. “But for a longer portion of the game we’re playing basketball we don’t want to play, and that’s why we end up losing the way we do.”
Head coach Bill Curley agreed with Kel-Abrams.
“We play 10 minutes too short,” said Curley. “We haven’t put a full 40 [minutes] together yet.”
The Lions are 9-7 overall, and have no more out-of-conference games left on their schedule. Curley said he welcomed the transition into NEWMAC play, because the team has more time to prepare between games.
“These guys are learning,” said Curley. “It’s hard to simulate game speed and what the other teams will do. We’re trying to teach these guys that it matters how you practice and how you prepare, and that doesn’t change when you step on the court.”
One standout player, according to Curley, is junior forward Austin Pinckney. Pinckney leads the NEWMAC in rebounds at 11.1 per game.
“It’s great to have him in the paint,” said Kel-Abrams. “To have him controlling the boards is huge for us. He keeps [the other teams’] big guys at bay.”
The roster now stands at 18 players with the addition of a new player, freshman Michael Sheng, over the break.
“Everyone’s healthy, so we’re trying to figure out how we fit together and how we can play together as a team,” said Curley. “We’re still working on getting better at executing, and just communicating with each other.”
The Lions will next face the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Engineers at home on Jan. 24. Emerson lost all three games they played against MIT last season, including a playoff game, and the Engineers are currently 4-1 in NEWMAC play.
“[MIT] is huge,” said Curley. “They’re definitely a tough team to play against. We’re trying to show that we belong, and hopefully we can protect our home court.”
Echoing his coach’s statements, Kel-Abrams said his team has one focus going into the MIT game: confidence.
“We know that if we play 40 minutes of good basketball,” he said, “they can’t hang with us.”