Following a season of unprecedented success for Queens men’s basketball, the team now features 10 new faces after losing four starters to graduation. While some familiar stars have moved on and the team roster looks markedly different, the playing style has evolved and the expectation of winning lives on.
One familiar star that does return this season is junior point guard Daniel Carr. Carr, a former selection to the South Atlantic Conference All-Freshman Team and a key contributor off the bench for last year’s Final Four run, said “the culture here doesn’t really change.”
“We expect to win, and we expect to win a lot of games, and we expect to win games that matter,” he continued.
While Carr and his teammates expect to win every game, they do not expect to do it in the same manner as last year’s team, who had four players on the floor who shot above 40% from three-point range.
“We shoot it okay this year, but we are more athletic, more of a slashing team, so the style has changed a bit,” said Head Coach Bart Lundy.
Carr echoed his coach’s evaluation, saying that this year’s team is tougher defensively, has more athleticism, and can really crash the offensive glass to “get three the old-fashioned way.”
Never fear, though, for slow-paced games. Lundy said they will still “throw it up a good bit” from the three-point range. Additionally, he said the team will continue to play fast, defensively picking up full court presses with lots of pressure. Bringing energy is a basic expectation for players who take the court.
While the team of course hopes to win every game, they never get ahead of themselves. According to Lundy, they approach goal-setting in an unconventional way. They do not talk about winning the conference or a national championship. Rather, they approach each day as it comes and “try to stack good days on top of each other.”
To continue having these good days, leadership will be essential. Lundy said the team has returners who are both good players and excellent leaders.
“We’re lucky in that we don’t have a lot of guys back [from last year], but the guys we do have back are really good leaders: Daniel Carr, Josh Brodowicz, Shaun Willett, Lewis Diankulu,” Lundy said.
Carr is vocal about his intent to step up as a leader by doing what is best for his team. “Individual accolades are all good when you can talk about it down the road,” he said. “But right now, this season, it is all about the team.”
Some of the 10 new faces will also have to step up in year one at Queens with big roles on the court. Lundy highlighted Jachai Taylor, a junior transfer from Murray State, Armoni Lee, a redshirt junior transfer from Louisburg College, and Kenny Dye, a freshman from Jacksonville, North Carolina, as players that have impressed during the preseason.
Further, Lundy and the coaching staff have big expectations for Jamari Smith, a freshman out of Jonesboro, Georgia, who is currently sidelined with a minor knee injury but is expected back within the next week.
Carr emphasized that all 10 new players have their own role within the team and they have been doing a good job of buying into that philosophy. He emphasized Lee’s defensive ability, Taylor’s athleticism when rebounding, and Smith’s projected key role when he returns from injury.
The new players also appear to be buying into the team’s playing philosophy. Taylor said his “personal goal is to help bring energy to the team”, especially with rebounding, and that he expects them to play “team basketball”, with high energy levels, teamwork, communication, and positivity.
The new faces do not end with the players. Lundy also added two new assistants to his coaching staff for this season, after Dan Larkin moved on to be the head coach at Johnson and Wales University and Carlos Dixon landed a job as Director of Basketball Operations at Appalachian State University. Lundy said Brian Steele, a former player for the University of South Carolina, will relate well to the players and add a lot to their strength and conditioning program, and Paul Davis, a former professional player and the all-time leading shot blocker at Winston-Salem State University, will bring expertise for the big guys.
Taylor has already seen the benefits of working with Davis, calling the assistant coach a “really, really smart guy around the rim” who is helping him improve his positioning to rebound the ball more effectively.
While the chemistry and system continue to develop, Lundy said the team might have to find “ugly” ways to win early in the season. He calls this “playing football”, where they rely on their defense and strive to limit turnovers, fouls, and transition baskets. Football teams, he said, “perfect not losing”, a philosophy that his basketball team will need to take to heart.
Regardless, the team was picked second in the SAC Preseason Poll, receiving four first-place votes to Lincoln Memorial University’s seven. Willett and Carr were both named to the Preseason Second-Team All-Conference. Further, Queens is ranked seventh nationally in the National Association of Basketball Coaches division II preseason rankings.
Whether through the 10 new faces or a slightly different playing style, Queens men’s basketball has undergone some changes this offseason. The one thing that will never change, though, is the culture of success.
“We’re going to get it done in a different way,” said Carr. “But at the end of the day, we’re going to get it done.”
Image courtesy of Queens Athletics.