Some people might see coaching a sports team with over two-thirds being new players as an obstacle. Jason Beschta is not one of these people.
Beschta, John Brown University’s men’s basketball coach, has a team of 14 with 10 new members. But in spite of the remodeled roster, he is optimistic in preparing for the new season.
“It’s something we can view as a blank canvas in front of us,” Beschta said. “We’ve got almost a brand new team, so we can go in about any direction we want with it…We’ve been focusing on that and just trying to get a really good foundation with everything that we do by starting at some of the basics.”
Shooting guard Matt Ledford had similar thoughts about the team. As one of the Golden Eagles’ four returning members, Ledford thinks that their chances are good for success in the upcoming season.
“Playing with them has been great,” Ledford said. “I think we mesh pretty well, and they’re a talented group of guys.”
The “talented group of guys” that Ledford speaks of is quite the diverse group. The new faces are from all over the map, ranging from a freshman from just-down-the-road Bentonville to a senior who transferred from Raleigh, NC. Beschta said that he’s enjoyed seeing the group come together over basketball.
“[The progression has] been really fun to watch with this group because with this many new guys, they’ve come together faster than any team I’ve been around so far, in all honesty,” he said. “They genuinely like each other. These are guys that spend a lot of time on the floor but also off the floor. They’re friends. They’ve got each others’ backs. They trust each other.”
Freshman shooting guard Marquis Waller said that the connection Coach Beschta spoke of was almost instant for him and his teammates.
“The first day we just connected well,” Waller said. “It was crazy. Everybody works hard; we’re all on the same page.”
But the team’s instant chemistry is not only due to the players on the team. Senior point guard Luke Moyer, who transferred from NCAA Division I Campbell University, turned praise back to the coaching staff for the team’s success.
“The reason why I came here is because of the coaches,” Moyer said. “They’re all so welcoming and their faith is really important…These coaches really care about us as men growing in our faith off the court more than basketball players. That’s really important for life, so when you add basketball to it, it makes it a whole lot easier.”
Though the team has enjoyed wonderful camaraderie so far, there are still adjustments to be made on the court. One such adjustment is found in the fact that freshmen who used to be standouts in high school are now called on to play a more team-centered role.
“Coming out of high school, most of the players we get were either the best player on their high school team or the second best player on their high school team,” Beschta said. “They’re used to being the man; they’re used to having things run through them. You get a team full of those guys, and not everyone can be that anymore, so everyone’s got to accept a brand new role and work to discover what that role is and discover ‘what’s the value that I can add to this team?’”
Waller, who used to play the “superstar” role on his high school team, said that he has definitely had to adjust to everyone playing at or above his level.
“The level of play is different,” said Waller. “I can adjust to the speed, but the level of strength is different. It’s a lot of smarter players and basically the whole team is good, so that’s an adjustment.”
Not only that, but the team also has yet to play a game. Ledford said that playing games is part of the process of understanding each other and coming together as a team.
“I think we’ll get better as the season progresses,” he said. “We can’t expect the chemistry to be perfect right away; it takes time and practice. We’ve only had about four practices so far, but I think that as the season goes on we’ll get even better.”
“I’m looking forward to this season. It’s gonna be a special one,” Waller said.