Men's Basketball Focused on Learning, Growth in Preseason

Patrick Steeves has provided vocal leadership as nine newcomers learn the GW system
Oct. 25, 2017

By Eric Detweiler, GW Athletics Communications

Something was missing.

Maurice Joseph could feel it. The coach wondered if his George Washington men's basketball team could, too.

The Colonials have impressed early on on with their energy and focus, but a recent practice session had started to drag.

Joseph was hardly worried. It's bound to happen once or twice in a grueling, six-week preseason. He huddled the group ready to let them know they could do better.

Then, Patrick Steeves spoke up. The sixth-year forward's voice dripped with emotion, delivering the message the Colonials needed to hear.

"That was refreshing for me," Joseph said. "When it comes from one of your peers, it just resonates more."

For Joseph, that scene represented another step in GW's progression. With nine newcomers in total on the roster, the Colonials have done plenty of learning since practice began Oct. 2.

As the countdown to the Nov. 10 opener against Howard continues, it's helped to have veterans like Steeves to guide the way.

"We know we can't waste any practices," Steeves said. "We've been attacking every day pretty hard. I think we've definitely gotten better every day. The body of work we've put together in the last three weeks has been pretty impressive."

Some lessons come via X's and O's with an offensive playbook and defensive rotations to master. Others are about building the habits and culture that pave the way to success.

"We're getting better on a day-to-day basis," Joseph said. "Our guys are picking things up a lot faster. Things are looking a lot smoother. This time of year all coaches feel like their teams have a lot of growing, a lot of improving to do, but I think we're in a good spot right now."

Naturally, the four freshmen -- Maceo Jack, Terry Nolan Jr., Justin Mazzulla and Javier Langarica -- have the most to learn. The past few weeks have offered a crash course in college basketball.

 

 

Jack has found a ready mentor in graduate forward Bo Ziegler. The guard from Buffalo, N.Y., said he's feeling more comfortable in the system with each passing practice.

When the pace gets too quick, Jack has figured out how to take a breath and slow things down.

"It's been a rush," Jack said. "Coming from prep school, it's a totally different level. The speed of the game changes, but we've all adjusted pretty well, I think."

Joseph has been particularly pleased with the group's chemistry. The coach wasn't sure how long it might take to get comfortable with so many new additions.

The bond has developed rapidly since the summer, boosted by a few bowling trips and other team-building outings. On Sunday, the Colonials had mental strength coach Brian Levenson in for some more fun.

The growing camaraderie has made the hard work on the court all the more enjoyable, Steeves said.

"I think it's going be a huge advantage for us," Steeves said. "I can't say exactly how it happened, but you can definitely see we've gotten very close, very quickly."

GW has a couple of chances coming up to gauge the development, starting with a scrimmage later this week. The Colonials have their only public tune-up Nov. 4 when Fairmont State visits Charles E. Smith Center for an exhibition.

"The big thing is that we keep progressing," Joseph said. "We're not going to be a finished product on Nov. 10 just because the season starts. We have a long ways to go, and we have to keep focused on the things that we've been working on executing -- timing, spacing, communication.

"I've enjoyed our progress. I've enjoyed our work ethic. I've enjoyed our competitive spirit. Now, we just have to continue to fine-tune and progress and ultimately get towards where we need to be."

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