Men’s basketball looks to playooffs

Miles King, Staff Reporter

After winning five games in a row, CWU Men’s Basketball holds the fourth best record in the GNAC. The top six teams qualify for the GNAC playoff.

After losing six of their first nine GNAC matchups, the Wildcats earned important wins over rival Western Washington University (WWU) Feb. 1 and Northwest Nazarene University (NNU) Jan. 23. CWU swept the season series against NNU, who are just ahead of them in the GNAC standings.

CWU has just six games left on the schedule and all of them will be vital for their playoff hopes. The Wildcats will play University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) on Feb. 8, who are currently tied for fifth with NNU in the GNAC standings. CWU lost to UAF earlier this season 83-86 in a close contest.

CWU will also play Seattle Pacific University (SPU) their second to last game of the season on Feb. 22. The last matchup with SPU resulted in a one point loss 83-84. CWU, SPU and UAF are bunched together in in the standings, only separated by a single loss or win. Sophomore guard Karsten Chaplik believes the team can finish the season strong.

“We just gotta keep doing what we’re doing on this win streak right now,” Chaplik said. “We’re playing good defense, pushing the ball and it ultimately leads to our offense.”  

Freshman guard Khalil Shabazz has high confidence in his teammates, even when they started the season slowly.

“I just knew that we were going to bring it together. Everybody is playing their role, everybody is playing their part [and] guys are stepping up,” Shabazz said. “I think we’ll make the playoffs and I think we’ll even be able to compete in the playoffs and hopefully get a GNAC championship,” Shabazz said.

A number of injuries have contributed to the Wildcats’ slow start to the season. CWU lost junior forward Drake Rademacher and senior guard Marc Rodgers to injury.

“We have one of the best benches in the league. It’s just experience, those guys have got a lot of reps this year… The experience they’ve gotten throughout the season has prepared them,” assistant coach Drew Harris said.

As a freshman, Shabazz thought his role would be to come off the bench and provide a spark. However, with the injury to Rodgers, Shabazz has seen his role expand on both ends of the floor.

“I knew I was capable of [stepping up]. Coming in I just really thought my role was just to bring energy off the bench with my defense… I didn’t really think I was going to be in the position I’m in right now,” Shabazz said.

According to Chaplik, the bench players are told by the coaches to be ready to come into the game and contribute. The injury to Rodgers has opened up some playing time for both Chaplik and Shabazz.

“You never know what’s going to happen with injuries,” Chaplik said. “Myself and everybody else has just had the mentality: just stay ready on the bench and when your time is called you got to go and perform.”

Even with injuries to key players, the goal is to win a GNAC championship, as it has been since the start of the season, said Harris.