The Trojans men’s basketball team will head into the winter break boasting its best start since the 2009-2010 season.
Head coach Marty Birky says the team has won some big games to start the season, and that he likes what he is seeing so far.
“We have an experienced team and a good recruiting class,” Birky said in an interview with The Press.
“They compete every day, go at each other and make practices as tough as games.”
Although the start to the season has been a positive one, Birky said there are definitely still some weak areas.
“We need to tighten up our defence, and compete in rebounding more than we do.”
In order to continue the success for the rest of the season, Birky said they will need to stay “hungry, healthy and eligible.”
Birky said one of the keys to the team’s hot start has been second-year guard and lead scorer, John Smith Jr.
“He’s one of the best players in the conference, if not the country.”
Smith said the team is happy where it’s sitting right now, and is playing to its strengths.
“We’re a really fast team, so we play really well in transition,” he said.
“We seem to be finishing games and really shooting the ball well.”
However, Smith agrees with Birky that there are still areas that need improving.
“We need to improve our defence and rebounding, but we’re a particularly young and new group, so it will come with time.”
Fifth-year guard Justin Makasiar is also looking to keep the momentum going.
Makasiar said the Trojans try to use their youth and athleticism to their advantage.
“We try to go out and get steals and get out and run on the break.”
Makasiar said the team is not just looking to have a good regular season, but to continue its success into the playoffs and win a championship.
“We know that we have the potential to do it, so we just have to bring it all together and that comes with time.”
The Trojans last conference championship came back in the 1999-2000 season, and its last national men’s basketball championship in the 1985-1986 season.
Trojans leading scorer Smith is also third in the ACAC with an average of 22.7 points per game, while forward Murphy Beya is top 10 in the league in rebounding.
The Trojans won’t play their next game until the new year, which will be a home-and-home series with the Red Deer College Kings.
Game one of that series will tip-off at SAIT Gymnasium on Jan. 13 at 8 p.m.