Though basketball season is now over, this season will not be forgotten for years to come. Franciscan University of Steubenville’s men’s basketball team has rewritten the history books with a season chock-full of broken records and Franciscan firsts, effectively ushering in a new era of Baron basketball.
This season, the Barons had their first winning record since 1972 and their first conference tournament appearance in the Division III era. The team also featured some individual milestones. Junior center Matt Trent became the all-time leading rebounder in Franciscan history. He also holds the single-season rebounding record. Sophomore guard Sean Hickey was third in the conference in scoring, and both Trent and Hickey are in the running for spots on the all-conference team.
According to Head Coach Joe Wallace, the success of this season had its roots in the end of last season. “It was just more fun to coach,” he said. “We had such a great sense of togetherness that was there much more than past years. I really enjoyed coming to practice because our group was really together.” This team is known for having fun on and off the court and attracting the rowdiest, most fun-loving student section in the AMCC.
Changes behind the scenes made the big picture accomplishments possible, explained Wallace, who credited the team leaders for building up the other members. “Our leaders this past year were so much more about the team than themselves, and it shows. We just got things done together as a group and it was so much different from past years,” said Wallace.
Most teams set goals before the season starts, but Wallace took a different approach. “Our goal was success,” he said. “We had tried to set goals in the past and it never worked out, so we just made performing as best we could our goal. We knew we could accomplish a lot more this year than in the past as soon as we got that first win, so we just focused on being the change, and that’s what it really came down to. We were the change this year in so many ways.”
Wallace said that there was a change in the locker room as well. “Our foundation became a culture of work,” he said. “This is what I meant when I say it started at the end of last year’s season. We had our new leaders that had just finished their sophomore year and they were well equipped to create a new culture. Guys worked hard to work hard. There was competition, but it was together as a team. The guy whose spot you wanted to take would be right there next to you, helping you get better. And that’s really what a together-team looks like.”
The Barons will graduate one player and return all five starters for next season, making them a favorite in the conference for next year.
The Baron coach had a message for the fans that were exceptionally rowdy, who may have single-handedly won the Barons a few close home games: “The support of our students this year was unbelievable. The environment in Finnegan Fieldhouse was by the far the best that we’ve ever played in. I can’t put into words how much we appreciate the support from everyone who came to our home games and how they helped us change the culture of this program. We really look forward to next year and to see what the student section has in store for opposing teams.”
Basketball season may be over now, but Franciscan’s team is not done working. The Barons will spend the next eight months preparing for their 2019-2020 season, attempting to build off of and surpass the success they had this past season. So, if you’re looking for a team to get behind next year, the Baron basketball bandwagon is the way to go.