Men’s basketball team prepares for their first competition since 2019

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Gabriel Strasbaugh, Staff reporter

The cancellation of GNAC championships has not stopped the competitive edge of the Wildcats. The men’s and women’s Wildcat basketball teams prepare for upcoming exhibition games. The men’s basketball team is scheduled to play their first game of the season on Feb. 19 against Seattle Pacific University (SPU) before traveling to Seattle to play SPU on Feb. 20. The NNU game has tentatively been rescheduled for early March, though no date has been announced.

Men’s senior guard Xavier Smith said the team has relished for the opportunity to get back on the court in a game for the first time since the 2019 calendar year. 

CWU was one of eight schools who agreed to cancel the season and head straight into the 2022 campaign. Regardless of the games being exhibitions, Smith is confident his team will show up and show out given this opportunity. 

“That’ll keep our competitive juices flowing well, during this time just to put some normal type of aspect around it,” Smith said. “Helping us build something.”

Smith believes these games will also be a great test for the future seasons. 

“I think these games we are getting ready to play starting this week hopefully, will play a big part of that and our vision for next year with what we are looking to do,” Smith said. 

Following a .500 conference season, Men’s coach Brandon Rinta said that the strides of his team’s maturation process is what will be the defining characteristic in the pursuit of a championship ring. 

“We are using it as an opportunity to approach next year,” Rinta said. “Even with the small amount of time we’ve been able to get on the court so far has been extremely helpful in those regards.” 

The time off the court for Rinta was the perfect opportunity to test his team’s adversity. “We thought of it as an opportunity to think outside of the box,” Rinta said. 

An unexpected offseason led to both teams studying film essentially going back to the basics. 

“What we ended up doing is learning and focusing energy into skill work all Fall,” Rinta said. 

For some players like sophomore point guard Cassidy Gardner, the time off, along with exhibition games were a good opportunity to recoup from injuries and build chemistry while preparing to be a part of a new team she believes can contend for a title. 

“I would argue my team is the best group of girls I have ever been around”, Gardner said. “I cannot wait for us to be able to go out and show people what we can do because I know [CWU] has been overlooked in the past. We’re gonna be dangerous and I have no problem saying that.” 

According to Gardner, her team’s greatest strength is the relationships the players share with one another. 

“We want everyone to be successful. It doesn’t matter who scores or who doesn’t,” Gardner said. “We just want to win.”

There will be no fans or media in attendance for either of the teams matchups with COVID-19 CDC protocols still in effect in our state. 

*Story updated to reflect game cancellations