From the outside looking in, this season should have been a rebuilding year. The men’s basketball team has only one senior and lost four of their top-five scorers from last season.
However, the team has already shattered those expectations, holding a 12-3 record going into the end of their schedule. The Battling Bishops are currently tied for 1st place in the NCAC and ranked 17th in the nation.
So what has been the secret to their success? Hard work, high expectations and embracing changes.
“We came in with a bit of an underdog mentality, but still expected to win,” senior Nick Felhaber said. “From the very first day, we established goals of winning the conference and making a deep run in the NCAA tournament. Having Coach [Mike] DeWitt hold us to the same expectations as years past I think has really helped us.”
According to Felhaber, Head Coach Mike DeWitt made some changes to the offense that better suited personnel, with positive results. Much less height and size in the post led DeWitt to change the offensive focus towards playing faster and making opposing big men run the floor, Felhaber said.
Additionally, this shift has taken advantage of their post player’s skills on the perimeter in shooting 3-pointers. Forcing opponents to guard more on the perimeter has had the added benefit of opening up easier interior lanes.
“The Run N’ Gun offensive style has been greatly successful for us. Coach DeWitt always tells us that we have the most freedom of any team in the nation and I truly believe that,” freshmen Will Orr said.
Orr emphasized another aspect that has fueled this season’s success: trust in one another.
“I have never experienced something like this before, from day one we developed a sense of trust that shows on the court. No one was ever selfish; everyone was making the extra pass and it was something that the coaches never had to teach or tell us to do.” Orr said.
An attitude of working hard and putting the team first has been embodied by their head coach, and has trickled down to the entire team as a result.
In their last game against DePauw, a 76-64 victory, DeWitt earned his 300th career win and 250th while at OWU. However, he acted no differently and the team had no idea until reading about it the next day. According to the team, that reaction is indicative of how he coaches. DeWitt doesn’t put himself out there; instead, he is more worried about getting the victory.
“Everyone has embraced coach’s expectations and plays their role to the best of their abilities. We work hard and know that anything can happen,” Felhaber said.
“We play for the man next to us. We all play a part in what we do and trust each other to contribute. We want to win every game, and do whatever it takes to make that happen.” Orr said.
The Battling Bishops finish the season with 10 games of in-conference play, followed by the NCAC tournament starting Feb. 24.