The last time that IPFW men's basketball coach Tony Jasick coached his team, the Mastodons were in the midst of winning a lot of games, so it's no surprise that the third-year coach is excited to get back into the gym for something more than just offseason workouts.
Jasick and his team open practice for the 2013-14 season this afternoon at Gates Sports Center.
“There is an anxiousness,” Jasick said. “There's a sense of urgency to this time of year. I think that we've prepared our team pretty well for the start of practice.”
The Mastodons closed last season with six victories in their final seven games an improvement from 11 wins in Jasick's initial season leading the program. That second year was beneficial for the Mastodon coaching staff, according to Jasick, and he believes the program is in the best position that it has been overall since he took over.
“I think as a staff, we have a much better sense now than maybe we did going into last year,” Jasick said. “Coming off our first year, with who we are (today) as a program, and what we are trying to do, that was really evident as we finished the year last year.”
After Jasick's first season, seven players left the program due to graduation, injury or transfers before his second season. In adding seven new faces last season (only senior forward Michael Kibiloski wasn't recruited under Jasick's tenure), it took awhile for the group to become cohesive. Between Jan. 10 and Feb. 9, the Mastodons lost seven of nine games. Then something clicked with the group and Jasick's team took off on a six-game win streak, which included three victories over Summit League-power Oakland.
“We had a huge turnover in our roster, which was great,” Jasick said bluntly. “But it led to a learning curve. I think once our team ... and (the coaches) figured it out, the results spoke for themselves.”
Since falling to NCAA Tournament-qualifier South Dakota State in the conference tournament, the current players have been working out in limited sessions with the coaches and strength and conditioning staff, and also among themselves. That strong effort and a lot of positive attitudes have been prevalent throughout Gates this fall, according to Jasick.
“We're coming into this year in a much better place than maybe we have in the last couple of years,” Jasick said. “I'm excited about it.”
Jasick and his staff realize the benefits of experience within the program, but he also grasps the challenge of that familiarity not breeding contentedness.
“When you have as many returning players (11 Mastodons were part of the program a year ago),” Jasick said, “there is a different element to preparing for a practice because you've got to make sure that there is not a comfort level on your team. But also, you want to make sure that you are preparing them the best way that this team can be successful.”