Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – Although the MacEwan Griffins are winless in eight-straight games to start the 2018-19 Canada West men's basketball season and have now gone 292 days since last tasting a regular season victory, you wouldn't know it from watching a practice.
Respecting and trusting the process that young teams must go through to reach their potential, Griffins players remain upbeat and optimistic that the wins will eventually come if they continue to put in the work.
"This is maybe the most resilient group of athletes I've ever had a part in coaching," said MacEwan head coach Eric Magdanz. "They show up every single day ready to work hard. They're the epitome of student-athletes.
"I know I'm very proud of their mindset. Being a young team, if we can have this mindset for this year, regardless of result, it's going to benefit us for long-term development of our athletes and of our program."
The Griffins head to Calgary this weekend in search of their first victory with matches against Mount Royal University (4-4) on Friday (8 p.m.) and Saturday (6 p.m., both on Canada West TV).
Although they lost their last time out – falling 84-80 at home to UFV last Saturday – the Griffins have some momentum from a huge fourth-quarter scoring spree where they nearly pulled off an improbable comeback after bucketing 31 points on 13-for-19 shooting from the field.
"It's given us a bit of a lift, it's given us some confidence that we can make shots when we need to," said Magdanz. "Really, we understand our fate for the rest of our season is in our hands, so we're ready to move forward."
It's ambitious to think they could catch a playoff spot after the slow start, but rallies have to start somewhere and when you have an enthusiastic group that is gaining belief, anything is possible.
If the Griffins are to have success against MRU this weekend, they'll need to limit one of the best perimeter-shooting teams in Canada West. The Cougars are fourth-best in three-point percentage (34.5), draining 59 of 171 attempts from beyond the arc so far. The Griffins have made 58 three-pointers, but on way more attempts (231), giving them a league-worst 25.1 percentage.
"Mount Royal is built a little bit similar to us in that they are a bit of a younger team as well," said Magdanz. "The difference is that we really have to take away their shot. They have a number of really good three-point shooters and when they start making shots, they become very difficult to defend.
"But if we can keep their shooters under control and hopefully that leads us to getting out in transition, I think we have a real opportunity to get on the boards and be aggressive."