Blakelee Steeb | Echo
The Taylor basketball team has another exciting season in the making. Ranked at No. 15 in the NAIA national polls, the Trojans are bringing back their entire starting lineup.
Their unselfish and fast-paced dynamic should propel them through their season and increase their win totals yet again. It may be a different season, but the same goal remains - play for God and each other as if it is the national tournament.
"Something that is different this season is the expectation," said senior guard Tim Fleming. "We weren't expecting to be as good as we were last year. This year everybody knows how good we are, and everybody knows we have 12 returners. We aren't surprising anyone."
Prior to last season, Taylor had endured seasons of growth and improvement. Their increased win total and their appearance in the Sweet 16 of the national tournament confirmed all the hard work was worth it and well deserved.
While performing well in the national tournament was a highlight of the 2016-17 season, the Trojans have much more to be proud of. Last year, the team began the season with an unprecedented 10-straight wins, some of which included victories over teams ranked in the top-20.
The team defeated Davenport University, who was ranked No. 3 in the nation at the time. This was a key victory logged in the books for the Trojans.
These key wins and their ability to compete, eventually bounced them up to a spot as the 7th-ranked team in the NAIA. Having such a successful season last year might put the team under pressure.
"The pressure of tough games creates an environment that we as a team can thrive in," said sophomore guard Mason Degenkolb. "Sometimes the pressure will make you perform to a better level."
The pressure paired with fan participation will be a contributor in the success of the Trojans. The team loves it when their peers support them. It acts as an energizer.
The fan participation on Tuesday encouraged the team to perform at their best against Wright State-Lake in their home opener. The 100-72 performance showcased the abilities of many players and built a foundation of success for the 2017-18 season.
According to head coach Josh Andrews, the game showed the team has many weapons and versatility, which signals a healthy offense; however, there is still room for improvement.
"At this point in the season, we are not 'great' at any one point of the game," Andrews said. "My hope is that we recognize the need to get better every day. As we move toward the second half of the season, we want to have a great defensive identity and to play unselfishly. Our guys are talented!"
Taylor will play another 14 home games inside Odle Arena, including a favorite Taylor tradition - the 21st-Annual Silent Night game on Dec. 8.
The team will compete against Viterbo today at 6:30 p.m. and Trinity International tomorrow at 8:30 p.m.
"Photograph by Brad Timmerman"