Men’s Basketball ready to get back to winning ways

By Ryan Gaydos

The Kean University Men’s Basketball team had a less than stellar 2012-13 season after coming off a run in the New Jersey Athletic Conference tournament at the end of 2012. The Cougars finished 7-18 and failed to make the conference tournament but the team is looking to get back there this season.

The Cougars return last year’s leading scorer Michael Burton and last year’s leading rebounder Kyle Latorre. Both players are two of a handful of seniors returning to the team this season.

Burton averaged 14.9 points per game last season and was named to the All-NJAC Second Team. Even though there could be more pressure to get back to the conference tournament this season with a senior-laden group, Burton is not feeling it.

“We have all been there before more than once,” Burton said. “So we know what it will take to make the tournament this year.”

Latorre is another key returner for the Cougars this season. He was the second leading scorer on the team from last season averaging 8.9 points per game and led the team in rebounding with 7.9 boards per game.

This offseason though, Latorre had knee surgery and is still not at 100 percent yet to return playing at full speed.

“My recovery is going well,” Latorre said. “I’ve only had minor complications with swelling. I plan to be ready for game one Nov. 19 at Swarthmore. That has always been my goal but at the same time, I don’t want to put myself at risk for not being healthy the rest of the season. I know I’ll have to play through some pain but my goal is to be healthy for the full season and I’m confident I will be.”

The main goal this season for Kean is to get back to the conference tournament and with an experienced senior squad, the Cougars are ready to do just that.

“In order for us to get back to the tournament this year and possibly win it, we will need everyone to be committed to what our coach teaches and truly buy in to it,” Burton said. “If everyone truly buys in to our culture and the way we play, I honestly think we have a good chance of making and winning the tournament.”

The team is also beaming with confidence this season, according to Latorre.

“It’s going to take trust,” Latorre said. “Trust in each other and trust in our coach. We have to be able to hold each other accountable as men and get the job done. We’re really confident with the team we have this year and are capable of achieving anything we put our minds to and that goes for winning the NJAC and into the NCAA tournament.”

The Cougars open up the season Nov. 19 on the road against Swarthmore College.. The first home and conference game of the season is Nov. 23 against Richard Stockton.

The players know it is not going to be a cakewalk to make the conference tournament again but they are willing to battle and fight their way to get back.

“No game is going to come easy for us because we’re not the biggest or most athletic team in the conference,” Latorre said. “But in the end, it’s a team sport and the only way we’re going to win is by a team effort. We have to go out there and battle every game and have a stronger will to win and execute our game plan than our opponent.”

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