The Elmhurst Men’s Basketball team missed out on the bid to Nationals just one year after winning the CCIW and being runner-up in the tournament.
The Bluejays did not have the year many fans were hoping for. After going 8-8 in conference play, it was clear that the team was not the same and was missing former players such as All-American Jake Rhode.
Senior and team captain Myles Thomas feels like this season was still an amazing one, since other teams had counted them out. However, losing the conference championship still stung for Thomas.
“I wanted the younger guys to get the feeling of winning the conference championship as I did twice because it’s no feeling like it,” Thomas said.
Thomas was adamant about not hanging their heads and still maintaining a positive outlook.
As Coach Baine said in the beginning of the year, this is a “new team,” and it clearly is, as they did not meet the high expectations that fans were holding for them.
Since the Bluejays fell short against North Park in the CCIW Tournament Championship 75-83 on Feb. 25, they did not get an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament. After finishing fourth in the CCIW they simply did not have a good enough record to get in over other teams.
The other CCIW team that gained a bid to the NCAA tournament was Wheaton, who went 22-4 in the 2022-2023 season and will host four games in the National Tournament.
Thomas is still undecided if he will return in the Bluejay uniform for a fifth year, and discussed how next season the team should have a fire under them and a new sense of motivation.
“It lights a match under you to get back there and value every game to put you in the best position to make the NCAA tournament even without an auto bid,” Thomas said.
The Bluejays look to bounce back next year as they retain a lot of the team, such as Second Team All-CCIW honors John Ittounas, Tagen Pearson, and Reece Taylor, who look to be the core of the team moving forward.
With this, the Bluejays look to bounce back next year.
“Role definition of our players will be an October 2023 project and largely influenced by our players’ springs and summers,” said Coach Baines.
Baines is adamant about continuing the traditional leadership training, off-the-court team building and self improvement seminars that they have done in previous years.
“Relationships are the cornerstone of what we are about,” said Baines.
Senior Wesley Hooker had a similar attitude when looking towards the future. He discussed how this year was a big teaching moment for a team with a lot of younger players, but now the team understands what they need to do.
“Going into next year everyone understands the mission and steps needed to get to the tournament and to be successful so everyone just needs to keep growing individually and together,” said Hooker.