The Old Dominion University men’s basketball team has not gotten off to the start that they intended to. Through six games, the Monarchs are 1-5 and in the midst of a three game losing streak. Part of the reason for the early struggles is the fact that the team has a new core of players with the departures of Kent Bazemore (playing for the Golden State Warriors), Chris Cooper, and Marquel Delancey. The starting lineup has been shuffled around a few times already, sometimes Dimitri Batten starts and sometimes true freshman Deion Clark and Aaron Bacote are in at the tip-off.
The Monarchs have had a stout non-conference schedule so far, playing the likes of Cleveland State, UTSA, Holy Cross, Murray State, and will host upstate rival Virginia Commonwealth University on Dec. 7.
“We’ve played hard and we’ve got younger players and newer players with new roles, we’re playing competitively, but we haven’t quite been able to get to the winners circle as much as we’ve wanted,” head coach Blaine Taylor said. Being ineligible for the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) tournament is a blow to the Monarchs because this limits them to only receiving an at-large bid. This is the Monarchs last year in the CAA before the move to the Conference USA is made. The Monarchs made it to the quarterfinals of the Collegeinsider.com Tournament last season.
Freshmen usually don’t expect much playing time during their rookie season, but in the case of Aaron Bacote, Deion Clark and Keenan Palmore, playing time is a must if the Monarchs want to succeed. “We’ve had a number of new players come into the program, where you get kind of spoiled with the time frame where guys have already played, 80, 90,100, 110 games and all of a sudden you’ve got guys who have played a half a dozen games and even the experienced guys have only played a couple dozen games…” coach Taylor said.
The schedule does not get any easier for the young Monarchs. Coach Taylor said, “We’re taking it game by game, the league race, with William & Mary, then we have Richmond and Virginia and those games are a lot of fun for us and we’ll just see what happens.”
Patience has become a virtue for the Monarchs as practices have been long, games have been tough, and the grind has been rigorous. The Monarchs are not hanging their heads down because they have seen these starts happen before. Coach Blaine Taylor has all the experience needed to rally a slumping team back up. With still more than half of the season remaining, the Monarchs have one thing on their minds, “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”
By: Mitchell Brown