By Zach Lucero
LOGOS STAFF WRITER
The University of the Incarnate Word men’s basketball team is gearing up for a tough schedule after losing the majority of last year’s starters.
Over the past two seasons the men’s team has had a record of 35-18 under Head Coach Ken Burmeister. Preseason polls pegged the team to finish at the bottom of the Southland Conference two years ago and no better than fourth last year. This year’s poll projects the Cardinals to finish next to last among 13 teams.
Six-foot-11-inch senior forward Jerred Kite said he considers the low projections as “extra motivation” on the court.
Referring to the low ranking, senior guard Sam Burmeister said, “(It’s) something we see every year, so it’s nothing new and we just have to prove them wrong.”
Being projected so low despite past success could have something to do with the major losses in personnel from last year to this year.
Four starters — the team’s top four scorers and the quartet that accounted for 67 percent of all the team’s points and 74 percent of the assists – are gone from last year.
The squad hopes to counter these losses with new players and improved play from returning veterans.
The team is very excited to see the play of junior power forward Devin Wyatt, who’s 6 feet 8.
“He’s a big defensive presence that we haven’t had in a while,” Burmeister said.
As for the point guard position, the team lost Mitchell Badillo but the spot looks to be filled up by 5-foot-11-inch transfer Jalin Hart and returnee Tyler Singleton, who averaged nearly six points per game in limited time.
“I think the scoring numbers will be more dispersed this year compared to the past,” said Jerred Kite.
The team expects more team scoring than past years when players such as Kyle Hittle and Denzel Livingston were wearing Cardinal red.
“(Guard) Shawn Johnson, Sam Burmeister and (shooting guard) Jorden Kite could all have breakout seasons this year in bigger roles,” Jerred Kite said.
Before conference play starts the Cardinals will face some very tough non-conference opponents. The season opens on the road Nov. 11 against the nation’s 17th-ranked team, the Longhorns from the University of Texas. This season’s schedule also includes two teams that made the NCAA tournament last year, and a former national champion in the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.
“We aren’t playing for a ring but we do want to beat everybody we play by as many points as possible,” Miles Banks, a 6-foot-9, 240-pound junior center from Queens, N.Y., said
“Tough non-conference games let us experience more athleticism than we normally would as well as a different and new style of play week in and week out,” Coach Burmeister said.
The team is still in a probation period for transition to Division I. UIW is ineligible for NCAA post-season play, but the team still has high aspirations for the upcoming season.
“Our goal is to have a winning season, win a conference championship and really just go from there,” said Burmeister.