By Will Conerly
Despite the Quincy University Men’s Basketball team ending last season with a win on Feb. 24th over McKendree University, the Hawks fell short of where they wanted to go.
The Hawks missed the GLVC and NCAA tournament, as their season ended a few weeks earlier than the 2016-2017 team who went 25-7 with an NCAA tournament appearance.
Six players on the current 2018-2019 roster were a part of that team. However, Marcus Hinton was the only current Hawk to play any significant minutes for that team which matched the second highest win total in school history and broke a seven year NCAA tournament drought.
Head coach Ryan Hellenthal served as an assistant for that season under Marty Bell, before taking over for the the following season (2017-2018). Bell coached the Hawks for 14 seasons with five NCAA tournament appearances.
In Hellenthal’s first year the Hawks went 9-18, with seven of those wins coming at Pepsi Arena. The Hawks won less than ten games for the 1st time since the 2001-2002 season when the Hawks went 7-19. It was the seventh time in program history the Hawks had less than ten wins since the programs inaugural season in 1940-1941.
Hellenthal’s first-year struggles are normal for new head coaches with the Hawks. Marty Bell went 11-17 in his first year in 2003-2004. Mike Foster went 10-16 in his first year in the 2000-2001 season. Steve Hawkins, who went to three NCAA tournaments (first three in QU history) in nine seasons went 8-20 in his first season (1991-1992). Another name on that list is Jay Lowenthal who went 9-23 1986-1987 season. So, of course, it is normal to have growing pains as a first-year head coach.
Furthermore, Hellenthal took over at an unconventional time. Hellenthal got this position in the fall of 2017, just months before the season. Without much time to prepare a year ago, Hellenthal feels more comfortable this time around.
“You know, we’ve had a really good fall, and had a couple good weeks of practice,” Hellenthal said.
Quincy went 1-1 in their opening weekend beating Cedarville 69-53, and losing to No. 23 ranked University of Findlay 91-86.
The Hawks showed their determination and grit only losing by five points after being down by 19 points in the second half.
The Hawks are returning 4 starters, and six players who combined 106 starts throughout the 2017-2018 season. Only losing one senior from last year helps the team feel more comfortable with their identity.
“Attitudes have been good, it’s an experienced team, they enjoy being around each other,” Hellenthal said.
The Hawks have been able to spread the ball more, as five players scored 12 or more points against Findlay. Some were familiar faces such has lead returning scorer Demetrius Houston, returning point guard Ryan Briscoe, and senior Marcus Hinton. Jah-Kobe Womack and Austin Downing, who are new to the Hawks, impressed in the first weekend as well.
“We’ve got to become a really good defensive team, that will really help us stay in a lot of games,” Hellenthal said.
This is exactly what has happened through the first two games of the season. The Hawks allowed just six points over the final 7 minutes, 29 seconds in their first game of the season to earn a 13-point victory. Then Quincy stayed in the game with Findlay, out rebounding them 37-29 and challenging them to the final seconds.
“Our thing is toughness and competing every night out,” Hellenthal said.
DEFENSE IS THE KEY
The Hawks allowed 79.6 points per game last season, which was second worst in the Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC).
Hellenthal has now been preaching defense for a year, and the players seem to be buying in. They understand the lack of defense could result in similar outcomes as last year.
That is something all the players want nothing to do with.
BRISCOE BECOMES BETTER
Especially, Ryan Briscoe, who was the starting Freshman point guard last year. Briscoe was the primary ball handler at all times for the Hawks, averaging 33.3 minutes per game, the 7th most in the GLVC.
“He did so much for us last year and people forget he was a freshman,” Hellenthal said.
Briscoe who carried the load will have more help and support from the supporting cast this year.
“His body is healthy for the first time in a couple of years,” Hellenthal said. “He’s going to be a great player in this program,” he said.
The Hawks goal is simple, keep moving forward.
“For us, it’s just getting better every day,” Hellenthal said. ”We set a goal to just get better every day.”
Hawks fans can watch this process in November when they play nine straight home games game from Nov. 20 to Dec 30.
Everyone can realize that turning a program around is not a simple thing to do.
“This is a process for us, it’s not going to happen overnight and we knew that,” Hellenthal “We’ve just got to continue to improve on both ends every day and the rest of that stuff will take care of itself.”
With the success of rebounding the Hawks have had this season, it is important to look at who is in the front court for the Hawks.
Aziz Fadika, a 6-foot-8 forward who transferred from John Wood Community College, will be a critical post player for Quincy.
“He has given us a good element of defensive presence and a shot blocking guy,” Hellenthal said.
Marsalis Johnson, Tanner Stuckman, and Marcus Hinton are all back for the Hawks as well.
“For what we lack in strength I think we make up for it in length and athleticism,” Hellenthal said.
Also, through two games, Womack averages 11.5 points and a team-leading 7.5 boards per game.
The starters have been Briscoe, Houston, Womack, Hinton, and Tanner Stuckman through the first two games of the season. Four of those players started for the Hawks last season.
“I’m excited about this group. They are hungry and have got a lot to prove,” Hellenthal explained.