Historic season ends

In his final outing as a Lion, senior forward Jordan Capps led with team highs of 19 points and five rebounds against Saint Mary’s College of California in National Invitation Tournament. File Photo/The Lion's Roar

The Lions basketball team concluded a historic season by participating in the National Invitation Tournament. In Head Coach Jay Ladner’s fourth season leading the team, the Lions finished the 2017-18 season with the second most overall wins in program’s history along with the Southland Conference regular season title.

Ladner described his thoughts on his team’s achievements during the season.

“First of all, it was very exciting,” said Ladner. “It was only the second time in the history of our program that we’ve been involved in a postseason play. The only other time was in 2005. It was also our first time to play in the prestigious NIT. It was a great experience.”

After a loss to Stephen F. Austin State University in the finals of the 2017 Southland Conference Tournament, the Lions traveled from Katy, Texas to Moraga, California to play Saint Mary’s College of California within three days for NIT.

“I certainly wish we had a little bit more time to prepare,” said Ladner. “It was an incredibly quick turnaround from the devastating loss at the championship game of the conference tournament on a Saturday night, and to play on Tuesday night, that was difficult not only physically but emotionally and psychologically. Overall, great reward and accomplishment for our program.”

Ladner believes this season to be a benchmark for the program going ahead to the upcoming seasons. He described that he wants his players to be competing for conference titles and postseason glories.

“This is a tremendous affirmation to our coaching staff as well as our players,” said Ladner. “We’ve been very fortunate over the time I’ve been here to have made significant progress every year and to finally get us to the point of conference championship and going to postseason. When you have seasons like this, it’s not something that just happens. It happens over a course of time. What we want to get done is get to a point where we can now be consistent with that. We want that to be our expectation now and not just once every 15 years that we have to wait to win the conference championship. We want to be competing for that conference championship every single year.”

With the end of the season, the program bid farewell to its senior players. Ladner spoke about the contributions of seniors Jordan Capps, Joshua Filmore, Eddy Polanco and James Currington.

“We’re gonna really miss those guys,” said Ladner. “They have been an incredible part of the building of our program. They’ve left an incredible legacy here. They’ve made history, but we’re looking forward to the new crop aligns and look to continue what those guys have established.”

Ladner also spoke about how he and his coaching staff have planned to adjust with the departure of the senior players.

“Unfortunately, unlike the professional ranks where you can keep a team together for many years, ours have a limited amount of time,” said Ladner. “Therefore, through that natural retrition of graduating and so forth, that is something that we need to anticipate is coming. Our coaching staff has been working hard developing recruiting relationships over the last couple of years to be able to anticipate losing those guys.”

With the conclusion of this season, Ladner is planning ahead for the next season. He believes a basketball team has a limited life during a season and described the plans for next season.

“Not a day can go by that you don’t work in preparation for next year, and I think that’s one reason we’ve been able to be successful,” said Ladner. “It’s because of our work in the off season, We understand the value of that. Our coaches have hit the road recruiting. We’ll be doing the strength training, conditioning. Players will be going back to the gym and work on some of their weaknesses, individual skill development, improve their overall game. The team will begin practice as well. There’s no real time to wait. It’s a yearlong process, and there’s no days off.”