The Pacific University men’s basketball team is off to one of its best starts in school history. With an 8-0 start to the season and a 2-0 start in conference play, it proves to be the best start for the Boxers since winning 11 in a row to start the 1971-72 season.
The hot start may come as a surprise to many, since the Boxers lost a large amount of seniors from last years’ team, as well as losing former head coach Tim Clearly. However, many of the players on this years’ team are not surprised with the how the season has started out and credit the job of new head coach Jerod Gibson and the coaching staff.
“Coach Gibson and our coaching staff have done an amazing job reshaping the culture of our program and getting us to play together,” senior forward Jay Merriweather said. “We may have lost a few starters but we also had a lot of people returning that were waiting for their time to play like myself.”
Merriweather is coming off a career best game against Lewis and Clark College in which he scored 28 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Leading the Boxers with 16.4 points per game, Merriweather credits the work he put in during the off-season to prepare him for the starting role this season.
“It was really hard not getting the chance to play last season, but it only motivated me to come back better,” Merriweather said. “I stayed in Forest Grove this summer and worked on my game harder than anybody else and came into this season with a chip on my shoulder.”
One of the few returning starters for the Boxers this year is sophomore point guard Davis Holly. Holly knew he would need to be more of a leader for this years’ team coming into the season and felt his freshmen campaign prepared him for that.
“My experience has helped me start this year and really know what to expect going into the season,” Holly said. “I feel I am much more of a leader this year. I am more confident in myself and in talking to other guys and helping them with what to do, the spots to be in on the court and encouraging them to always give their maximum effort if they need it.”
As a freshmen stepping into the starting point guard role last season, Holly quickly learned the game is much quicker at the college level and can wear players out.
“I understand that it can be a grind at times and from my experience last year, I have really learned how to pace myself much better in practice,” Holly said. “I always play hard in practice, but I have learned that I need to take breaks during practice to be able to stay as fresh as possible for the games. It has also taught me how to be calmer on the court and try to be a more vocal leader and keep the guys together when things aren’t going perfectly.”
Both Holly and Merriweather have high expectations for their team this year and are aiming at a playoff berth.
“My expectations for myself and this team are make a very hard playoff push,” Merriweather said. “Pacific has not made the playoffs in a long time and I feel like this team has what it takes to break that streak.”