Men’s basketball works together to continue this season’s success

Helen Rogalski, Managing Editor

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This season has been a special one for men’s basketball here at UNC Wilmington. Fresh off a long-stand nine game winning streak, head coach Kevin Keatts was thrilled to discuss his team, their success, and how they have continued to stay grounded and focused throughout one of UNCW’s most successful sports stories yet.

Keatts has already made a lasting impact on UNCW’s athletic department. During his first season as a Seahawk, Keatts was named CAA Conference Coach of the Year, and rightfully so.

Going into his second season as head coach, Keatts had a clear path and plan to lead an outstanding group of players to victory.

“I think the relationship [of the team] has helped a lot because they know who I am,” said Keatts during a sit down interview. “They know what I expect from them. I know who they are as individuals.”

The priorities and goals that Keatts has outlined for his players may surprise you.

“Our focus is to be the best player and student you can be, and the best person,” said Keatts. “We feel like if you’re successful in three of those categories, then we’ll have a good team, because you exceed in the classroom, and you’re a good person on and off the court. If you can provide those three things and do it at a high, major rate, then you have the chance to be successful.”

This outlook has done Keatts and the team justice so far. The basketball team altogether are pursuing on as good athletes, as well as good people. This was easy to see as I sat down with junior Denzel Ingram, who only had positive things to say about this season.

“When we compete, we’ve got a really unselfish team,” said Ingram. “Nobody cares who gets the credit, which helps a lot on the court.”

This attitude among players has helped them to work together on and off the court.

“We’ve got to be leaders,” said Ingram. “We’ve got to make the right decisions.”

The players eat, drink, sweat, practice and play together. It’s become a key to their success.

“Everybody buys into each other and we get along great,” said senior Craig Ponder.

As they prepare for crucial games of the season, Ponder reminds himself and the team that hard work has gotten them where they are today.

“We worked to be in first place,” said Ponder. “We’ve worked to compete for having the chance to play for first place in the conference. To see our hard work pay off, there’s no better feeling than that.”

As the Seahawks head into crunch time, Keatts understands the importance of balance between work and play.

“We have a lot of fun together but we understand when it’s time to get down to business,” said Keatts. “We’re very hopeful. We’re playing very good basketball and we want to continue that.”

As this season comes to an end, seniors like Ponder are aware of the meaning and significance that this time has had in their lives, as well as the community’s.

“I’ll look back on it [this time] as some of the greatest times of my life,” said Ponder. “I learned a lot about the game of basketball while I was here and I’ve met a lot of good people. I wouldn’t trade my time here for anything.”