Winter Break arrives on the campus of Buena Vista University, the students and student-athletes of campus depart for their homes until January of 2021…bar the three Winter Athletics teams who remain hopeful for pandemic-free seasons upcoming.
The Beaver Women’s Basketball, Wrestling, and Men’s Basketball squads all remain for the time being on a quiet campus, due to a shortened Winter pause.
However, the moment will not last. January awaits in anticipation and so do the Beavers.
Coming off of a thrilling 2019-2020 campaign where the squad finished at 18-8 overall and 9-7 in conference play, the Buena Vista Men’s Basketball team has had to adjust. Not only on the court but off it as well.
With COVID-19 impacting the squad’s usual ability and time to practice, second-year Head Coach Trevor Johnson and his staff prepared for a year more challenging than any past.
“Our guys have had to adjust to practicing with masks on and we had to ease our way into things by starting in smaller groups throughout the fall and the beginning of practice,” says Johnson. “We’ve gone through a couple of periods of downtime due to testing but our guys have handled the uncertainty extremely well so far this season.”
Johnson, 2020 Under Armour “30-Under-30” mention from the National Association of Basketball Coaches was recognized on a nationwide level after a promising start to his career this past year.
Alongside his roster of 28 men and 13 fresh faces, the sophomore-season coach and his similarly young staff look to carry over the success from 2019-2020.
“I think the group we had last season did a great job getting the program on track and we are looking to build upon the success that we had last season. I have been really happy with the progress we’ve made on the floor so far,” adds Johnson.
Averaging 86.6 points per game last season for an American Rivers Conference-best, the team’s explosive offense will have to shift the starting five from last season.
In the same vein, the squad’s stout defense led by returning Senior Guard Michael Demers only gave up 75.7 points per contest as well.
The Storm Lake native Demers’ team-high 14 blocks and third-best 33 steals complemented fellow Senior Brendan Gary of Tucson, Arizona, whose highlight dunks excited the fans in Siebens Fieldhouse.
The towering pair will be a force to reckon with in the post this year, and Demers expects the squad to improve upon last year’s success.
“First we set the goal of reaching the conference tournament, then to get to the championship, then the NCAA championship. But, we are also not trying to overwhelm ourselves with saying “hey we need a perfect record” when of course we are going to do our best to win every game,” says Demers.
Beginning their last year with an impressive record of 16-3, the squad’s “strong-start” status was put to the test with a tough finish to the season.
For Demers, his fellow Seniors, and the rest of the squad, the upcoming season will be focused on finishing strong. Both at the basket and in tightly-contested matchups with long-time conference rivals.
“The returners came back highly motivated after the way things ended last season and have been phenomenal leaders as they show the new guys how we do things in our program. We have also seen some really exciting things from our freshman so I’m pleased with where we are at right now,” says Johnson.
“Hands off to the coaching crew as they have brought in some great guys and great teammates. We have been getting them into the new system and they are starting to pick up on what we are needing from them and they’ve been doing a great job at it,” adds Demers.
The team’s 2021 schedule, much like Women’s Basketball and Wrestling, has yet to be set by the American Rivers Conference.
With only a month-and-a-half to go before the Beavers defend their home court for the first time this season, the wait will prove worth it.
“I am very excited to see where this team will go in the upcoming months and I cannot wait to get back out on that court with my brothers,” says Demers.
“While I wish we were gearing up to play games right now, the guys have embraced the opportunity and have continued to work hard,” Johnson concludes.