Mike Schrage took over as the new head coach for Elon University’s men’s basketball team last April — marking the beginning of a series of changes to the team, as he started recruiting new members to the Phoenix.
“You get the job in April and you have potentially five scholarships, and [I’m] really excited about all the freshmen that decided to join us,” Schrage said. “They have such bright futures, and will be such a big part of what we’re doing now and going forward. I think everyone can see that already.”
With four games played in the 2019-2020 season, the Phoenix are 2-2. The starting lineup features three new additions to the team: Graduate transfer guard/forward Marcus Sheffield II, freshman guard Hunter McIntosh, and freshman guard/forward Hunter Woods.
The season is still in its early stages, but the young team will face their toughest opponent yet. Elon will take on the number five ranked University of North Carolina Chapel Hill on Wednesday, Nov. 20. The game will be in Chapel Hill, and is expected to start at 8:30 p.m.
Marcus Sheffield #4
Sheffield brings veteran experience to the Phoenix. Before coming to Elon, he spent four years at Stanford University. As a Stanford Cardinal, Sheffield averaged just over six points per game in 86 games across three seasons. According to Stanford University Athletics’ website, Sheffield sat out his junior year due to a leg injury.
“It was a great experience at Stanford. Just my experience of plenty of good competition every day in practice,” Sheffield said. “The games are always peak competition in the PAC 12. So, I think, just good competition prepared me for Elon.”
Sheffield’s experience in the PAC 12 appears to be paying off. In his first four games with Elon, Sheffield is averaging over 17 points per game, and scored 22 points against the University of Michigan on Nov. 15.
Schrage also talked about the presence that Sheffield brings to the rest of the team.
“He just stabilizes us because he’s played at a really high level and competed at a high level. He gives the guys confidence that we have him on the court,” Schrage said.
Sheffield was not totally unfamiliar with the coaching staff. Sheffield and Schrage both knew each other from their time at Stanford. When Sheffield was a freshman in 2016, Schrage was an assistant coach for the Cardinal. Sheffield said their previous relationship played a role in deciding on which school to transfer to.
“That was big for me when I decided to leave Stanford — to play for somebody [I] already had a relationship with and I definitely had a relationship with Schrage. So that kind of brought me to Elon,” Sheffield said.
Hunter Woods #25
Hunter Woods is one of the two freshmen that has appeared as a starter in all four games this season.
Getting experience and hearing that he was going to be a starter this early in his career was exciting for Woods.
“I was very excited,” Woods said. “I just want to continue to get better every day. So that’s the ultimate goal. Just getting better as a team and as a player.”
While Woods and fellow freshman Hunter McIntosh have started all four regular season games, Schrage said that he does not guarantee that new players will get that chance. But he also said he is not shocked about them earning playing time in their first year.
“I would never recruit a young man and say ‘you’re gonna play these many minutes,’ you know, ‘you’re going to start.’ There are no guarantees,” Schrage said. “But I knew they’d have the chance to compete and play.”
In the first part of the season, Woods had produced on the defensive side of the ball. In his first game against Mars Hill, Woods hauled in nine rebounds.
He also has three steals in the season. Woods said that he wants to continue to improve, but he also talked about gaining experience with his classmates.
“It’s going to be big time for us in the long run because coach is throwing us in the fire early,” Woods said. “So, at the end of the day, we’re going to be growing together and we’re going to have a great four years here.”
Hunter McIntosh #0
McIntosh comes into the year as one of two freshmen that have started each of the first four games.
In his collegiate debut, the Georgia native racked up 16 points against Mars Hill University, and has averaged nearly 10 points a game so far this year.
With a few games under his belt, McIntosh talked about his experience of finally playing at the college level.
“It’s definitely exciting. This is something you think about for a long time but then finally being here and being immersed in it,” McIntosh said. “Obviously four games is just a small taste of it, but I think I’ve gained some valuable experience over these first four games.”
McIntosh said it was exciting to get a chance to start so early in his career, and talked about his role as a freshman point guard.
“My role is, one, just be whatever the team needs me,” McIntosh said. “Right now, running the team, I’ve been kind of asked to shoot and score early, but also just being a great facilitator, being a great vocal leader.”
With players like McIntosh and Woods getting experience early on in their collegiate careers, Schrage said that they have shown maturity.
“They’re not afraid of the moment. They’re not afraid to compete. They’re not they’re not acting like freshmen,” Schrage said. “They’re willing and ready to make plays. And even in these environments we played most recently at Georgia Tech, at Michigan, they’re not overwhelmed by the moment by any means.”