At the beginning of this season, it seemed like there was no light at the end of the tunnel for the Queens College men’s basketball team.
The team lost 12 of their games, both conference and nonconference matches, before gaining their first win. In addition, the team faced many injuries during the beginning of the season.
“We started off rough with injuries, whatever could happen to a team, it happened to us with the injuries, among other things,” head coach Darryl Jacobs said. “The main thing is it is not how you start, it is how you finish.”
The team proved that logic to be true as they finished sixth in the East Coast Conference with a record of 9-11, giving them a playoff spot in the quarterfinal.
The turnaround towards the middle to end of the season showed that the Knights were serious about making it to the playoffs.
“If they saw me giving up then they would give up. But I’m never a quitter so I would come in every day, working hard, telling them that you guys are a good basketball team and doing what we had to do to continue to coach them as coaches,” Jacobs said. “Even to this day they say ‘another coach would’ve given up on us and you never did.’”
This season was the first with Jacobs as the head coach after 19 seasons under the reign of Kyrk Peponakis. Jacobs got the job and within a month had to rebuild the program by recruiting players and having them believe in him.
“It’s been quite challenging when you’re changing the culture and bringing your philosophy into the program,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs convinced his players that he could make them into a championship team and provided them with an analogy: if Donald Trump came through the door and offered to make him a millionaire, he’d be a fool not to listen.
“I’m not bragging, but I said I’m a championship coach, I walked through your door and I can show you how to win championships and in the beginning they had a little bit resistance to the hard work. It’s not that they weren’t capable, they just didn’t know how much hard work it would take,” Jacobs said.
An expectation that Jacobs had for this team was to be competitive and take it game by game. That expectation was met when the team made their turn around. He says that they are also a blue-collar type team where they work hard day in and day out.
Jacobs believes that his team’s biggest strength is their defense.
“Over the second part of the season, we made a complete turnaround; we began to play a lot better defense. I put a great amount of emphasis in practice on that,” Jacobs said.
A factor in that turnaround was also the help of senior, Jeremiah Mordi returning to the squad after taking last season off.
“He was a good player prior to taking a year off. He’s a fantastic ball player, brought leadership, defends; he has an ability to score the ball. He’s been a tremendous addition to us,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs also credits senior, Patrick Parker on sacrificing his normal position to adjust to this team.
“He was actually All Conference last year as a wing player; we moved him to the point guard position, so he sacrificed his status to run the team, which was not his natural position,” Jacobs said. “He’s a consummate team player.”
Unfortunately the team lost 69-58 against Molloy in the quarterfinal game on March 5, but making it this far despite a rough beginning shows that the team is looking to improve for next year.