The Red Zone was full at the newly renovated Connolly Center. As soon as “JuJu On That Beat” began playing, the crowd got hot. College basketball season has arrived.
Lights went off and a short clip of Seattle University’s Men’s Basketball team began to play. Names of the players were announced as Seattle U students and fans cheered in support.
On Friday, Seattle University’s men’s basketball team started the season with a 76-65 win against Pacific Lutheran University.
“It feels good. You know, especially playing up here [Connolly Center], everything is kind of just new,” Head Coach Cameron Dollar said. “It was good for the guys to get out there. It’s the first time for a lot of the guys playing in front of others.”
The season opened up with a new setting for the Redhawks, which changed the atmosphere for both the team and the Seattle U students supporting them. Since becoming D1 in 2009, it was their first time at the newly renovated Connolly Center. Dollar and the team players were content with the turnout.
“It’s an attempt for us to brand ourselves, get in front of the community and build excitement,” Dollar said. “It’s good to see alumni, regular students, friends and family. It was a good atmosphere.”
Compared to the KeyArena court, where Redhawk fans were scattered and didn’t fill up the seats, the Connolly Center did fill up most seats and fans were alive. Playing at home seemed to also pump up seniors Brendan Westendorf and William Powell.
Westendorf was named to the preseason First Team All-WAC and lead all scorers with 22, while Powell, who was named to the Second Team scored 18 to go along with seven rebounds and eight assists.
“I liked the atmosphere. It was fun to get back in the Connolly Center,” Powell said. “We came out, played hard, I’m just happy we came out with awin.”
Although they won their first game, the team is using this game to strategize on what needs improvement . One of the focuses is adjusting the first year players to this new platform. The team entered with five new players in total, including Morgan Means, who started and had five points in his first game.
“We’re helping them with the life of basketball. We love them. I remember when I was a freshman; I was hardheaded, I didn’t listen and I thought I knew it all,” Powell said. “But I think they understand now after they got their first game and I think we all knew they’d understand after that.”
As for the senior players, who have bittersweet emotions about their final season, they’re trying to make the most of their last college basketball season the best they could: taking it day by day, one game at a time.
“[The season] is the last go around… Hopefully by the end it all ends up to the WAC championship,” Westendorf said.
Agreeing with Westendorf, Dollar hopes that through the season, the team will build enough momentum for the WAC championship. They’ve been working on their offense and defense, trying various rotations and lineups. Preseason gave them the practice they needed to start with. Now, they just “ride their [opponent’s] wave,” as Powell said.
“You want to maximize your potential as you go through the season,” Dollar said. “Each and everyday we’re coming out and getting better as a team and as an individual.”
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