By Ryan Norton
On February 18, Kean University’s men’s basketball team will be playing its final game of the 2014-2015 season against The College of New Jersey.
After finishing last season with a 16-14 record, the Cougars’ season got off to a slow start, dropping their first six games. Of those six, four games were losses to teams within their division, the New Jersey Athletic Con- ference (NJAC). Despite the losses, Kean’s Cougars remained competitive on the court, losing three of those six games by four points or less.
The team’s first two wins would come in back-to-back games in December, defeating Rutgers-Newark by a score of 58-55, followed up by defeating Delaware Valley College 63-60.
On December 18 and 19, Kean University, along with Sewanee, Keystone College, and Hampden-Sydney College all participated in a four-team tournament, The Luck Stone Holiday Tournament, in Hampden-Sydney, Va. In this single elimination tournament, Kean lost their first game to Hampden-Sydney College, 80-56, but quickly rebounded in their next game the following day, defeating Keystone College 65-51, securing third place in the tournament.
The month of January saw the Cougars continue to struggle, posting only a 2-8 record in that time. Their victories came in an 81-78 OT win over Montclair State University, and a 71-70 victory over Ramapo College, which saw senior Emmanuel Omowole put the finishing touches on a 15-point comeback by hitting a 3-point shot in the final seconds.
Rob Kurzinsky, the head coach of Kean’s basketball team, is still trying to find solutions to difficulties the team is facing during a game.
“As Bill Parcells once said, ‘you are what your record says you are’, and the team’s record falls on my shoulders,” Kurzinsky said. “Part of our culture is that we start every day 0-0, and we are just trying to win that day and get to 1-0 each night. Our guys have stayed true to that belief and have competed hard on a daily basis.”
At the conclusion of this season, the team will see the departure of three senior starters: JJ Hladik, Tim Steward and Emmanuel Omowole. Sophomore Kevin Grek, and juniors Mike Diamond, Dre Kelly, and Tommy Soulias have elevated their game throughout the season, and are being seen as the key players of the team going into next season.
Going forward, the coach has a very positive outlook about his team.
“I am extremely optimistic about our future,” Kurzinsky said. “Our culture is strong, we have the right type of individuals leading our program. At times, the difference between winning and losing in the NJAC is a very fine line. We certainly need to address some of our weaknesses, but most importantly is we need to continue developing our players, both individually and collectively, on a daily basis to get to where we want to be.”