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The Nicks Level
Thought this would be good for discussion, from a post over on the other ISU forum:

Now that our beloved Trees are done with the basketball season, I thought I'd take a moment to reflect on what's happened, what's happening, and what might happen as we move forward. Just my opinions, so you might not care (or agree) but if not for mindless babbling, what is a message board for??? :bigsmile:

What happened

This was probably a typical "transition" year when bringing in a new coach with a totally different style. It took our guys a while to "get it" and we paid with some early season losses. I'd have liked to play those games again in February!!! Many of us, myself included, kept saying that we really wanted to see improvement as the year went along, and that this season was all about January and February. On those two counts, MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! I don't think anyone can argue with the fact that we got better as the season went along. And we were playing meaningful games in late February for the first time in years. The program, despite a setback here and there, is headed in the right direction. We saw players that got better as the year progressed, something that had been lacking in the recent past. See Todd McCoy, Jay Tunnell, Gabe Moore. They weren't always the most consistent, but they were clearly playing at a higher level in February than they were in November. Progress, my friends. That's what happened.

What's happening

As of now, we won a tournament game for the fourth straight year, at least cementing the fact that we're not the absolute worst team in the league. Yeah, it was a play-in game, but it sure made Thursday night in St. Louis more enjoyable! We have some players coming back that appear to be headed for bigger and better things next year. We saw our totally exhausted and injured team play Drake pretty even for a half. I saw the desire in their eyes during that game. I also saw guys who were ragged, to say the least. We've got to get out of that darned play-in game if we want to make any noise in the 'Lou.

We also have what looks to be a really nice group of newcomers coming in next year. With more to possibly be added, we seem to be recruiting well.

Our coach is a real class act. I got so much enjoyment from watching him COACH in St. Louis. No yelling, no doghouses for players, just good, solid coaching and a professional "act like you've been there before" demeanor. And lest we forget, he didn't claim the dubious honor of becoming the first coach ever ejected from the MVC tourney. KMac is class. Our program is in good hands.

What could happen

As I alluded to before, we've got some players coming back that could, given some weight room time and hard practice, become premier players in the MVC. I'll give my thoughts on a few:

Jay Tunnell - Jay showed great improvement in the last half of the year. The Drake game in the tournament was a fluke, in the respect that I believe his knee was bothering him much more than anyone wants to let on. If we bring in a JUCO banger next year to play inside with Isiah, Jay will have more freedom to roam around the outside, therefore stretching opposing defenses. Just look to Drake to see what that can do for you. I personally think Jay is more of a traditional forward than a center. Having the ability to let him out of the lane could create more problems for opposing defenses. He's just gotta keep those knees healthy.

Marico Stinson - I know some of you don't particularly care for Rico and his style of play. IMHO, he's the best player on our team. He suffered through a serious "Sophomore Slump" during February, but when he's on, he's an all-conference caliber player. KMac alluded to this in the Tribune-Star article yesterday. He needs to get stronger in the legs, I think that really affected his shot during the last month. McKenna sees the potential, and I believe will COACH him in the areas he needs help with. The kid can play. And he can shoot it from outside, or create his own shot off the dribble, which I'd expect to see more of next year.

Isiah Martin - Did anyone NOT enjoy watching this kid this year? He exudes excitement on the court, and that smile is contagious! Not to mention the fact that he might be our first "true" post player in years and years. I'd figure he'll be spending a LOT of time in the weight room over the offseason, and probably a lot of time shooting free throws. After his freshman year, if my calculations are correct, he is seven blocks shy of #7 all-time at ISU, and with three more years of similar output, has a real shot at breaking DeCarsta Webster's all-time blocks record. I also figure he'll get more into the offense next year, providing us with real inside threat to complement the stable of versatile players that are coming back. This kid is gonna be fun to watch!!!

Harry Marshall - To me, Harry is just a huge bundle of energy. He's quick as a whip, and isn't afraid to bang inside with guys who are six or eight inches taller. Harry's got to work on bottling that energy a bit and focusing it. He was prone to getting out of control, particularly when we got down. Of course, his aggressive play won a game or two for us as well! I'd rather have the problem of focusing an aggressive attitude, than trying to get a player to be more aggressive!!!

Aaron Carter - see the notes on Harry. Aaron has a huge upside, and even this year pulled his weight, particularly in the last month. Focus, focus, focus.

I wouldn't be surprised with an offseason full of player turnover. Not because any of the players aren't great people, but because they may not be comfortable in McKenna's system, or they may just not be DI talent. Not sure who may go, but I'd bet on at least a couple of departures. This should end up being good for both the players and the program.

That said, if people leave, we'll be replacing them, hopefully with an upgraded talent base. We've already landed one well-regarded JUCO, and I wouldn't be shocked to see the staff try and shore up our inside game with another JUCO or two. There's a big guy at Vincennes that might fit well into what KMac is trying to get done. There's lots of JUCO talent all over the country, so it will be very interesting to see who the staff can pick up. You know, a stronger inside presence really picks up our chances in the league a lot. I've said all year that the other team's guards don't scare me as much as their ability to rebound the ball. I look for that problem to be corrected.

The staff seems to be doing a wonderful job with our program. I like to think that McKenna will turn our program into perennial winners, and will stay here for a long time, just like his mentor. All we have to do is keep him "paycheck happy" as the wins come along. The future of our program is most decidedly bright! I can't wait for next season!!!

And I would be remiss if I didn't chime in on the contributions of the Athletic Department. RP is doing a great job across the board. He getting very high quality coaches to come here, and then he's giving them what they need to compete. That sounds like it should be a given, but that hasn't always been the case at ISU. Brett Burchette is showing an obvious talent at digging up money for the program. Otherwise, we wouldn't have the resources to do a lot of what is getting done. The staff over there is coming along nicely, and while there are still issues (many people on this board would be willing to help, guys...) we are light years ahead of where we were.

All in all, our program and athletic department are in better shape today than they have been since the heady days of Bob King. To borrow a line from one of our friends on ValleyTalk, "It's a great day to be a Sycamore!!!"


I told Little Eddie in an email back just before the season started that if Big Bro won 16 games this year he should be considered for Coach of the Year. He came up one game short but definitely has put some life in the Sycamores. Can't wait until next year!

sneaky long

The White Level
Amen ,bro. I too like the direction the basketball program and the athletic dept. are headed. I just returned from stl and was impressed by the reaction from fans of other teams about coach McKenna and our program in general. The few fellow Trees in attendance I spoke with seem excited about our future. Let's go BLUE!


The Varsity Level
I think sneaky hit it on the head, our whole atletic department is headed in the right direction. We've been at the bottom of almost every sport for the past few years, there was no reason for it. Things seem to be headed up across the board and I'm not ashamed to say, "I'm proud to be a tree!"


The Captain Level

The whole Athletic Department is headed in the right direction!

Man, it has been a while since I could say that.

Let's get out and support the baseball and football teams.

Go Trees!



The Odum Level
Martin did the most to excite me. When was the last time we had a big guy with so much talent? I never thought this time a year ago that I'd be happy Vette bailed on us. If he hadn't he probably would have left eventually and we never would have had Martin.

I hope Lee or someone else can step in and fill Gabe's shoes next year.

I agree that the team seems to be improving. I'm excited to see how far we can take it next year. Drake proved anything is possible in the MVC from one year to the next.