With the 2019 basketball season starting Nov. 5, head coach Jay Ladner and the Golden Eagles have spent the past seven months adjusting to the new coaching administration.
“It’s just a different culture. I have the greatest admiration for Coach Sadler, and I thought he did a good job mitigating the situation here. It’s just a different style of play now,” Ladner said. “The way we play is strategically, and we like to run good offense. We want the best offense for our shooters to make the best shots.”
Inheriting a team of 11 rookies created a challenge for Ladner, and he has relied on redshirt senior forward Leonard Harper-Baker and junior guard LaDavius Draine to be leaders during this transition.
“We have a lot of freshmen and sophomores, so there’s not that much experience. It’s back to the drawing board,” Harper-Baker said. “A lot of these guys haven’t played Division One or know what it’s like to be Division One, so [Lander] wants us to set a big standard.”
Harper-Baker led the Golden Eagles in rebounds with 239 total, and Draine led in three-pointers with 78 for the 2018-19 season.
“I will be playing more of the guard spot like last year,” Draine said. “It gives me more freedom, more moving around. They’ve been on me a lot because I shot well last year, so they have been emphasizing helping me get my shot and my pump fake and my driving one-dribble pull-ups and stuff like that.”
Ladner said he sees freshman Artur Konontsuk as another leader on the court.
“If we had to start today, I think you’re certainly going to see Artur Konontsuk. He’s got an opportunity to play right off the bat,” Ladner said.
The six-foot-seven forward from Estonia brings a different style of play to the Golden Eagles squad.
“He isn’t shot shy at all. Coming from overseas, he’s just different,” Harper-Baker said. “Being able to shoot the ball at a higher rate is something we haven’t really seen coming in as a freshman.”
Ladner said other potential starters include sophomore guard Tyler Stevenson, redshirt sophomore guard Jay Malone and freshman forward Hunter Dean. Although the roster is not officially set, Ladner hopes to put players on the court who will make the Golden Eagles successful.
“Our overall goal is to become a national power,” Ladner said. “We are not quite as prepared for that at this moment because of our youth, but that’s okay. We will welcome that challenge with open arms, and I can’t wait to get started.”