As the coach of an upstart basketball program, Andre Smith feels like a salesman trying to push a product without the backing of any real substance.
“It's like selling something no one has ever heard of,” the Lourdes College men's coach said Wednesday night. “You have to go door to door and try to get players you can trust and believe in.”
In the long run, Smith's goal for the program is to field a team better than the one that fell Wednesday night, 67-54, to Spring Arbor at Tam-O-Shanter.
In the meantime, Smith has managed to roll out a squad that's been competitive most games, including Wednesday night when the Gray Wolves were in striking distance until the final five minutes or so.
The loss, which is the second of the year to Spring Arbor, drops Lourdes to 6-7 overall. Smith has seen growth from his squad since the beginning of the year while admitting “we're at a standstill” after dropping their second straight on the heels of a three-game win streak. The goal from now until the end of the season is pretty straightforward. Smith is looking for respectable results.
“I can't say .500, I can't say over .500,” Smith said. “If we're competitive the coaching staff will be happy.”
Lourdes never led Wednesday night but didn't trail by double digits until there was 6:41 remaining in the game. The most serious threat to SUA's second half lead came on a Joe Davis field goal that made the score 42-41 with 14:20 to go. From there, a 16-4 run slashed the Gray Wolves' chances.
“Just couldn't stop them,” said John Washington, who was his team's lone double-digit scorer with 20. “It starts on defense.”
Washington, who last played at Illinois Central Community College, entered the game averaging 13.6 points per game. Davis, a nonstarter who has played at NCAA Division I programs Cleveland State and Morgan State, averages 17.5. He scored nine Wednesday night.
Smith wants to see other team members absorb more of the scoring load from Washington and Davis.
“In order for us to be successful we can't have a two man wrecking crew,” he said. “It's easy to defend those two once things go bad. We have to have a third and fourth option.”
Lourdes is an NAIA Division II program and is not yet affiliated with a conference. Smith, who played at Youngstown State, is well traveled as a coach, stopping by Europe for a period of time and most recently working at Thiel College. His assistant is Leroy King, who has coached locally at Owens as well as Lake and Central Catholic.
The team is made up mostly of players who have exhausted their eligibility at junior colleges. Smith likes those guys because “they should be a little more mature on and off the court which helps the team grow.” There's a local presence on the roster too, led by Southview's Andy Borcherdt who scored six points Wednesday night. Jake Dupree (Whiteford) and Ken Hairston (Bowsher) are also team members.
Next up for Lourdes is a Monday game at Owens against Mt. Vernon.
“We don't have an opponent on the schedule we can't beat if we come and play as a team and play together,” Smith said.
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