During the summer, John Weiss PO ’14 was busy working at a publishing company—but learning new vocational skills didn’t keep him from honing his basketball tricks. Playing in a local league in his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, John kept himself in good shape running, rebounding, and shooting long balls as he geared himself up for his second season with the Pomona-Pitzer Basketball team. The first game of the season took place last Saturday in Malibu against the Division-I Pepperdine Waves.
“It was fun to get out there again, and the season opener was a good place to start,” Weiss said after the game. In the second half, he connected a crucial three-pointer, like one of many he had practiced over the summer, to give the Sagehens a 36-34 lead, but the team fell short, losing 59-50.
“It was a good game and we competed really hard,” Weiss said. “We’ll get better.”
The Sagehens have traditionally competed against non-conference teams at the beginning of the season, a schedule that provides valuable experience and direction as the team prepares to reclaim its conference title. The last time the Sagehens captured the championship was in 2008, and if anything, the Pepperdine game showed hopeful signs that the team may reach the top again.
All five starters from last year have returned, and the team added four first-years, providing a formidable depth for the team. Last weekend, the Sagehens were without two starters, Xavyr Moss PZ ’13 and Donald Okpalugo PO ’13, who are studying abroad in China and South Africa, respectively. But even without Moss and Okpalugo, the team almost handed Pepperdine a loss as the fresh blood of Michael Cohen PO ’15 and Jack Klukas PO ’15 filled the void with impressive poise and grit.
As the Sagehens look to incorporate new players into the lineup, the team is still working on its rebounding and offensive execution. The Sagehens were limited to 29 boards against the Waves’ 42, and failed to get to the free throw line for much of the game.
“We need to keep working on the boards,” said Evan Zahinser PO ’12, who is entering his fourth and final season with the Sagehens. “As [Miami Heat president] Pat Riley said, ‘Rebounds equal rings!’ We also need to take better care of the ball and execute our offense.”
Sixteen of the team’s 21 shots were assisted as the Sagehens displayed great ball movement and developed solid teamwork. The Sagehens also had higher field goal and three-point percentages, an encouraging sign that the team can outscore opponents easily if only they get to the foul line more often.
This year marks the 25th season for Coach Katsiaficas, who has guided the Sagehens to 11 NCAA trips and conference championships. As the Sagehens prepare to take on St. Thomas this Saturday at 5 p.m., students can count on Coach Kat and his team to work their magic on the court once again.
“It’s exciting, and I hope we achieve something this year that we can all be proud of,” Zahniser said.