Monmouth basketball team looks forward to returning to MAAC Tournament
College basketball teams are in the home stretch of their regular season nearly one year since COVID-19 shut down conference tournaments that were already in action.
“Other teams got to play two full games in Atlantic City. We got shut down the day of our game,” says Monmouth University senior guard George Papas. “I don’t even know how to explain what was going through my head when it happened. And pretty much all I’ve been preparing for and thinking about is Atlantic City since that day happened.”
Papas says that the team has used that experience as motivation for this year’s season. The Hawks are currently 10-5 and first in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference in both standings and scoring offense.
“The confidence coach [King] Rice put in our heads, the game style we play, he wants us to play that fast and with the players that we have, as long as we keep our confidence up, it’s really hard to stop our offense,” Papas says.
Rice says that managing COVID, constant schedule changes and trying to keep his players safe has been difficult this season. But he says that he has made adjustments that are paying off.
With six games left in the regular season and a chance to make it to the NCAA Tournament on the horizon, Rice says that he is keeping his players in a positive mindset that has allowed them to grow closer.
“Make it fun. You’ve got an hour – hour and a half tops – of your day where you don’t have to worry about COVID, girls, schools, your parents, who is going to be the best baller right now,” says Rice.
Monmouth will play against Iona next Friday. The MAAC Tournament begins Monday, March 8.