Over the last three years, Elon University’s club basketball team has seen a massive change in popularity. The program went from struggling to gain interest after the pandemic to having almost 90 sign ups each year starting from 2021 according to Elon senior and club basketball co-president Max Casey.
Casey said in his freshman year, the team struggled with the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Casey said the team did not hold tryouts that year, as talent was not a major factor when selecting the roster.
“It was COVID. We didn’t have a lot of guys come out, and so we were just taking whoever we could get,” Casey said.
Over the past three years the team has begun holding tryouts to accommodate the increase in interest. This year’s tryout particularly saw a lot of students who signed up in hopes of securing a roster spot.
“This year was pretty good,” Casey said. “We had 60 or so come to the tryout itself and I think we kept just over 30 guys for this.”
Unlike the typical basketball tryout that may feature a mix of different drills and scrimmages, Casey — along with fellow senior co-president Quinn Shannon — had the team mostly do scrimmages with a little bit of the three man weave, a basketball drill that reinforces basic skills.
“We try to start with a little three man weave just to get a sense of who can understand the basic concepts,” Casey said. “We move it into scrimmages because we just want to see kids play and how they play together.”
Junior Connor McQuibben,who’s in his second year with the team, said tryouts and practices have been productive because the players have been able to get a sense of each other's skill sets. Even with the season just starting, McQuibben said he has already been impressed with the team.
“I feel like they’re really picking up the intensity,” McQuibben said. “It’s a great group of guys and we’re just trying to push each other as hard as we can each day.”
The structure of club basketball tryouts allowed newcomers such as freshman Justin Brader-Araje who appreciated the welcoming atmosphere of the team.
“I was a little nervous about the students being coaches but they’ve taken me in with open arms,” Brader-Araje said. “They’ve been really helpful.”
However, Brader-Araje said that the competition is certainly no joke.
“I think people underestimate club basketball, but a lot of these guys really can hoop and it’s good competition,” Brader-Araje said. “I think it’s a high level.”
The constant scrimmaging at practices not only improves each player's skills but also is a way for players to build friendships, according to Casey who said that the team bonds both on and off the court. The team travels together to road games, giving the players more time to bond.
“We’ll carpool together and then everyone goes out for a team dinner afterwards, getting to know each other,” Casey said. “It’s fun and you get to know them well.”
On Oct. 1, the club basketball team traveled to Brodie Recreation Center in Durham for the first game of the season where it lost to Duke’s club basketball team 34-33.
McQuibben expressed disappointment with the result of the game but said the team is looking forward to the next one.
“Obviously we’re not happy with that result,” McQuibben said. “We just got to make shots down the stretch, make free throws, but I guarantee you next game, we’re coming out with this.”
The team’s next game is still to be determined, according to Casey.