Story by Sarah Combs, Sports Editor
The Murray State Athletic Department hosted its 2016-17 basketball season media day on Wednesday in the CFSB Center for the men’s and women’s teams.
Racer athletes and coaches talked about their upcoming seasons as well as the budding excitement for Racer Mania tonight at 7 p.m. in the CFSB Center.
Three seniors, two juniors and lone sophomore represented the men’s team alongside Head Coach Matt McMahon. The subject of the night for the men’s team was culture. Each player mentioned culture at some point in their interviews confirming the influence it will have on the upcoming season.
Senior point guard Bryce Jones explained his mindset for both personal and team goals. Jones has climbed the ladder; winning in high school, at Jones County Junior College and hopes to leave his mark on the Murray State program, ultimately earning his title as a winner at the Division I level. Jones praised the coaching staff for padding the roster and also stressed the focus of bringing the ‘Murray State culture’ back which he defined simply: winning.
“Coming into this year it was all about bringing the Murray State culture back, which is winning,” Jones said. “We had a lot of ups and downs last year due to a lot of injury and short in depth but this year the coaching staff has recruited some great guys.”
With six new players on the roster, the dynamic of the team is changing. Demarcus Croaker, senior from Orlando, Florida said he has worked to learn the new players and establish that chemistry through pick-up and practice that will hopefully transition into season games.
“It’s not knowing what spot they will be at on the court, it’s knowing their game,” Croaker said. “We know we have spot up shooters, we know we have slash shooters.”
As far as inspiring the Racer culture into the new team, Croaker has embraced the responsibility by leading by example both on and off the court.
“I go hard in everything that we do, even off the court,” Croaker said. “Everything on and off the court I work my butt off and try to set the example especially for the young guys and show them the type of intensity and type of level that we will be playing at.”
LeAsia Wright, senior from Louisville, Kentucky, Kyra Gulledge, senior from Olive Branch, Mississippi, and Ke’Shunan James, junior from Jackson, Tennessee, represented the women’s team along with Head Coach Rob Cross.
The women’s team returns all five starters from last year and Cross expects more depth from his team and positional options coming off the bench, mentioning players like Bria Bethea, Taylor Reese and Abria Gulledge as important underclassman who have improved for the upcoming season.
When discussing the puzzle pieces for this year’s team, Cross mentioned the drought of rings. Cross is joined by assistant coaches Tony Cross and Aubrey Reese with the possession of championship rings and said that Ke’Shunan James has the desire and drive to achieve the same thing.
“She truly loves the game and more important that anything, she wants her team to win a championship,” Cross said. “KJ is one of those people who can drive others to want to get her own ring.”
Establishing chemistry won’t be a problem for the women’s team this year. Returning all five starters from the previous year, Kyra Gulledge said that already having that rapport will directly affect their jump out of the starting gate.
“We already have good chemistry and a good feel on how to play with each other so having five returners back will be a good thing,” Kyra Gulledge said.
Tonight both teams will be in attendance for Racer Mania at the CFSB Center. The Mania will include an intrasquad scrimmage as well as other competitions for the players.