After cruising to a 99-63 victory in its only preseason exhibition game, the Elon University men’s basketball team is confident moving forward into the season. Returning its top five scorers from last season, there have been no significant changes to the Phoenix lineup.
“Experience is a strength of this team,” said ninth-year head coach Matt Matheny. “Veteran leadership kind of goes along with that.”
Based on the practices and the sole exhibition game, Matheny said he believes this team is special.
“We have the potential with this team to be as good of a team as we’ve had in a long time,” Matheny said. “I believe that. Now, we’re not there yet, but we have a chance. We have potential … because of the talent we have and the experience that we have.”
The experience showed in the exhibition game, as 14 of 15 Elon players saw action. The only player to sit out was senior guard Brian Dawkins who was resting a sore knee. The freshman class and its potential depth are some things Matheny said have a chance to be a strength of this year’s team.
“I think we have some talent in the freshman class,” Matheny said. “I really think they will help us this year. I’d love to play eight, nine guys – I’d love that. We might be able to.”
Junior guard Danian Swoope says that he believes minutes will be taken or gained during practice.
“I expect us all to play a little bit this year,” Swoope said. “The leaders on the team are pushing the younger guys and the younger guys are getting better every single day and they’re going to be ready to play in any type of situation.”
The play Swoope is referring to will revolve around some changes to the speed of the game for the Elon squad. The Phoenix looks to play a little bit quicker than fans are used to seeing.
“It’s not going to be anything that’s just glaring,” Matheny said. “We’re going to try to be a little quicker in our pace and motion offense. What does that mean? It just means that we expect to move the ball quicker. We’re willing to shoot quick and we’re going to emphasize that more.”
“Play a little faster … catch the teams on their toes, well on their heels, and basically just try and mix up how we play a little bit, little different from last year,” Swoope said. “Let our playmakers make a little bit more plays than they did last year. There’s a lot more spacing this year with all the shooters on the floor, and that’s a lot of fun for all five of us on the court.”
With all of the returners on the court, junior forward Tyler Seibring said he feels something different during the game.
“We have experience and chemistry the way we trust each other and the way we trust people to shoot,” Seibring said. “We have a lot of guys that can knock down shots across the space of the floor. It’s just going to be a group of guys that have fun during the season competing.”
“The main thing is that guys are just playing with confidence,” Swoope said. “We put a lot of work in during this offseason. We are starting to see it, like Tyler just said. It’s just exciting for me to see it too.”
The next test for the Phoenix will be preseason-ranked No. 1 Duke University on Friday, Nov. 10. Elon will make the short trip to Durham for the 7 p.m. game.