The SDSU men’s basketball team’s difficult season came to a conclusion during spring break, with a 10-point victory over the New Jersey Institute of Technology, 71-61.
In the win, SDSU not only said goodbye to a losing streak and a disappointing season, but also to seniors Andy Kleinjan and Jose Frias.
“(It) hasn’t hit me yet,” Kleinjan said.
Head Coach Scott Nagy said the two seniors played a critical part in holding the team together through the difficult year.
“Both guys have been our glue,” he said. “They’ve had good attitudes.”
The Jackrabbits used the seniors’ last game as motivation for their energy in the victory.
“We wanted to play hard for them,” freshman forward Kai Williams said. “They’ve always been there to be the vocal leaders.”
Williams led the team in scoring with 20 points, including nine consecutive points for the Jacks during a stretch in the second half.
“We owed a win to ourselves,” Williams said.
With the game in hand, Nagy decided to honor the seniors by taking them out of the game one at a time to standing ovations by the crowd of 1,220. Kleinjan gave his curtain call with under a minute remaining. At 23 seconds left, Frias gave his final salute to the crowd.
Saying goodbye to only two seniors was indicative of how young the 2006-07 team was, starting as many as four freshman in some games.
“Everyone understood that the freshmen were a key part of our team. Kai Williams, Garrett Callahan, they are the future of SDSU basketball right now. And they played a big role the entire year,” Kleinjan said.
The young team went through some growing pains this season, making for some very difficult times. Yet through all the turmoil and struggle, the team kept competing and getting better.
“It was obviously very difficult to be a part of, but you could see improvement every game. Defensively, I thought we had a great season. Offensively, we were just very inexperienced,” Kleinjan said.
Nagy said this season was difficult, especially on the players. However, he said was very proud to have been the team’s coach. He complimented the team on their willingness to keep working hard and their resolve.
“It is very difficult to keep losing, but the coaching staff we have with Coach Nagy, he doesn’t allow you to, let’s say, give up or anything like that. I think that was a key to this year’s team,” Kleinjan said.
During their 30 games this season, Nagy said he only remembered one game in which the team did not compete well and played poorly.
“We expect to be a better basketball team (next year),” Nagy said.
With only the two seniors leaving, SDSU looks to bring back a talented group of returning players. SDSU has been plagued with players transferring and leaving the team, but Nagy does not expect any players to leave the squad this year. In fact, the men get a player back, as forward Ben Beran returns to give some much-needed size to a small Jackrabbit club.
“I think you can expect great things next year just because every game this year, if you look back, we lost by either 10 or less points and it came down to just little five minute stretches in each game where we lost, or the other team gained momentum on us. Other than that, we were in every single game,” Kleinjan said.
#1.883670:3170646876.jpg:bballbench.jn.jpg:Thomas Basset, front, and other Jackrabbits sit on the bench and watch the game in Frost Arena during the Jackrabbits final homestand of the year. The Jacks finished 1-1 in their final two games.: