Basketball Looks For a Turnaround This Season

By Josh Riddle

As Indian basketball gears up for its November 13 opener at Providence College, the team is preparing tirelessly, determined to learn from past trials while pushing forward to victory this year.  Last year, the men faced adversities from which any group of professional athletes would have a hard time recovering.  Trying to balance the rigors of the Dartmouth schedule while simultaneously attempting to turn a program around is not a task for the faint of heart, but this year’s squad is attacking the challenge with no regrets. With Clive Weeden (senior captain) and Jabari Trotter (two year starting point guard) at the helm, the team seems to feel confident in its ability to fulfill the hopes of the Indian trifecta of President Kim, Athletic Director Harry Sheehy, new Coach Paul Cormier, and their newfound optimism for Dartmouth Men’s Basketball.

Players wake up at 5:45 a.m. most days to lift weights, a routine that is followed by practice, class, and then more practice. Their efforts in the weight room and on the court are just part of what the Indians are doing to rectify their 1-13 Ivy League record last year.  Players are also doing everything they can to change the team’s mindset.

When asked about recent pre-season polls forecasting a poor season for the Indians, captain Weeden countered,  “They are just a motivating factor. The entire demeanor of the team has changed since last year and we are going to give everything we have to prove people wrong about us.” 

Doing so, Weeden says, will require that teammates “buy into the fact that we are not the most talented team on the floor, but we will be the hardest working. If we really put our minds to this concept and give our all every possession then we are going to be a tough team to beat.”  

Trotter echoed these sentiments by saying, “We don’t really bother with rankings because the only opinions that matter are the ones coming from our locker room before a game. Of course, we use it as fuel and motivation, but we’d rather let our game talk. We know what we have to do this year, what our goals are, and what it’s going to take to achieve them. We’re focused.”

The Indians now have coach who’s is up for the battle.  Paul Cormier’s record — replete with past Dartmouth success, NBA knowledge, and the ability to bring in an unmatched staff of assistants — speaks for itself.  

Trotter is quite enthusiastic about Cormier; he says that “[Cormier] has brought a certain atmosphere to the game of basketball that flat out deserves respect. He knows what he’s talking about, and is very driven and focused on the keys to success and to winning. It seems that his hiring has opened people’s eyes. Every day, as players come into the locker room for practice, we feel like legitimate Division-I basketball players.”  

Weeden also talks about how Cormier drills the idea of teamwork and companionship every day.  Every time the team puts their hands in to begin and end practice, the chant is always the same.  “Together.” Players egos’ are made to sit idly on the sidelines while unity and sacrifice are put at the forefront. This team understands that it doesn’t have any individual superstars that are going to lead the Indians to victory, but there’s a faith that a team effort can thwart all challenges.  

There are more freshmen on this year’s team than any in recent memory. The Indians have only lost two contributing players from last year’s team and have a strong core returning.  Weeden noted that although “it can be tough to come right in and play,” this year’s freshman class is nevertheless “extremely talented. Some will be able to contribute right off the bat. As freshmen they also have to bring their all each and every day to push themselves and their teammates to get better.”

The Indians have been notorious in the past for starting off horribly, which brings in a wave of low confidence going into the Ivy League season . The effect is that it is often difficult for players to feel as if they’re keeping their heads above water. 

Trotter stressed that opening the season strongly will be critical to the team’s success. “It’s very important to start off well this year,” Trotter said. “ We have a tough non-conference schedule because we have only four home games.  This will be a good test for us though because you always learn something as a team when you’re on the road.”

He’s self-assured that a solid start will put the Indians on a new footing. “If you’re playing well and getting wins before Ivy League starts, it fuels momentum and instills a winning mentality before the real games start. Confidence is huge so if we start off well, there’s no doubt in my mind we’ll finish well.”  

With no clear favorite in the Ivies, as Cornell was last year, a good start for Dartmouth might well intimidate Ivy opponents and set the stage for the greatest turnaround in Division I memory. The Indians were the worst Division-I team in the country on several counts last season, which would make the taste of victory that much sweeter.

The men of the Dartmouth squad stand to learn a valuable lesson, applicable not only to athletics, but to life generally, in their chance to overcome drastic and seemingly impossible circumstances. Keep a watch on them this winter; with a new coach and new dynamism, they may just produce a miracle for the College.