Elon men’s basketball knew it had a lot on its plate following an array of changes after its last season: new head coach Billy Taylor, several players transferring out and five new freshmen, including two walk-ons. Taylor said the first thing he wanted to do when he got here was set a new standard for the basketball program.

“We understand that it doesn’t happen on day one, and there’s a lot of work that goes into it,” Taylor said. “But understanding how we get there is important, so laying those foundational pieces so that we can continue to talk about it, reemphasize it and understand what it means, why it’s important, and how we’ll ultimately get to the goals that we want to get to.”

Graduate student guard Torrence Watson was one of the seven players that returned from last season and said the team is working to get better everyday. Watson said the coaches are good about encouraging everyone on the team to work harder.

“I know one thing that we’re focusing on right now is taking a step forward every single day, not taking one step forward and two steps back,” Watson said. “And I think that’s a big thing because it’s tough right now we got a new team, new coaching staff, didn’t win many games last year, not winning games now, but I think everybody on the team is just grateful to be able to wake up and play basketball every day.”

Watson said the players from the team last year wanted to stay together and keep that same bond. Watson said leaving wasn’t an option for him because of NCAA rules, so coming back this year, he and Taylor urged the rest of the few returners to come back too. 

“The returning guys here just made a pact that, we love each other off the court, let’s do the same on the court, stay together and let’s be better,” Watson said. 

Another one of the returners from last season’s team is sophomore forward Sam Sherry, who said he talked with Taylor and was told the role he could play for the team this year. Sherry has been a starter so far this season and said it feels good to be in Taylor’s starting lineup.

“He had a plan for us and he really trusts us and everything that we do in our abilities on the court, and he loves us as people off the court,” Sherry said. “I think that’s huge to have that chemistry with a player and in a coach, so I think that’s great.”

The team has had a chance to play some high level games and played in the Asheville Championship tournament Nov. 11 and 13. Taylor said it has been beneficial to play against some local teams as the team looks to continue to build this program.

“I love the opportunity to play against especially guys that are doing the right way, good programs. So to play N.C. State, and Radford, and UNCG and High Point, that means a lot,” Taylor said. “I think it means a lot to our fan base as we continue to build the program. So it’s exciting to play against some of these programs here locally, and hopefully we’ll be able to establish ourselves with someone who’s really formidable to play against.”