Article Originally Published by Preston Rios on North Texas Daily
Men’s basketball, men’s golf and swimming & diving joined Dickenson’s discussion on Zoom to touch on their upcoming seasons and how the pandemic impacted the offseason.
The 2019-2020 campaign for North Texas men’s basketball (20-11, 14-4 Conference USA) ended with the team coming out on top as conference champions. Newcomer and junior college transfer Javion Hamlet earned C-USA Player of the Year, Newcomer of the Year and first-team all-conference in his first season with the Mean Green.
The point-guard in the Zoom session said he turned a corner in the middle of the season after non-conference play ended to emerge offensively and approach the game aggressively. In that period, Hamlet averaged 17.9 points per game while leading the Conference USA with 95 assists and free throw percentage (88.7%).
“The coaching staff and my teammates believed in me the whole way so it made my job easier,” Hamlet said. “My teammates kept carrying me to keep on going and that’s what I did. Point guards are judged by winning, so I don’t worry about the awards or any of that because I want to win championships and do things as a team that the program has never done before.”
Head coach Grant McCasland enters his fourth season at North Texas coming off Conference-USA men’s basketball Coach of the Year 2019-2020. He has three 20-win seasons in a row and accumulated a (61-41) record in his tenure. McCassland’s first year as the head coach in the 2017-2018 season he led the Mean Green to the College Basketball Invitation championship over San Francisco in a best-of-three series.
While the season was canceled after winning the conference, the players and coaches found their own specific ways to practice and improve during quarantine.
“I’ve really been impressed with our guys because of their resiliency to find different ways to workout,” McCassland said. “Our staff has done a great job, you just have great people and I can’t say that enough. I’m thrilled about our upperclassmen and how they’ve taken this time to figure out ways to get things done.”
North Texas men’s basketball not only celebrated a conference title victory during the spring but signed the top recruiting class in the conference and No. 48 overall in the nation.
McCassland brings in three high school players and two junior college transfers to complete the five-man signee class.
“The relationship part honestly was a big part of having the ability to get the guys we wanted,” McCassland said. “This is what’s unique about the team, I’ve never been a part of a team that’s wanted and invested in recruiting as much as these guys have. They want to know who’s going to be part of our family.”
Junior golfer Viktor Forslund closed out the season finale in Wyoming placing in the top 10 on the weekend t-8th (-3) day one, t-6th (-4) day two and t-9th (-4) on day three. Both tournaments included multiple top 25 ranked opponents.
“The guys were playing well and we got better throughout the whole team,” Stracke said. “We had six or seven guys playing at a very high level in the lineup by producing. We were looking forward to the [Louisana Classics Tournament] and possibly winning that with five other events left on the schedule.”
Forslund retains his eligibility for two more seasons after the spring season was canceled. He said in the Zoom meeting he works with his personal coach while going back home to Sweden and meets with Stracke and the rest of his teammates on a regular basis.
“I’ve worked on a lot of things like my short game and putting with [Stracke] while I work on my swing with the coach in Sweden,” Forslund said. “Being in Sweden I’m able to focus on my swing and see my coach more often. We worked a lot on my putting this spring and continue to do that by sending videos to [Stracke].”
Men and women’s golf will open the Bruzzy’s golf practice facility in the upcoming school year while still under construction. It will be located next to the former Eagle Point Golf Course.
The facility is a $3 million project with a $1.5 million gift from Jerome “Bruzzy” Westheimer where Mean Green golf will have their first on-campus outdoor facility since 2003.
“We’re excited about the new facility and [Westheimer] had a lot to do with the process,” Stracke said. “Recruiting is going to change and it will change the dynamics when you have an environment of the team being together. Our team is going to bond more in this environment whether it’s playing ping pong or watching the TV in their spare time.”
SWIMMING & DIVING
Five North Texas swimmers traveled to Cleveland, Ohio for the 2020 College Swimming and Diving Coaches Association of America National Invitational Championship taking place the weekend of March 12 to 15.
Junior swimmer and team captain Leigh Faires McGee received word on the season coming to a close while in the middle of a competition.
“It was a little disappointing because I had goals that I was trying to accomplish at that meet,” McGee said. “It didn’t matter for anyone because we were all in the same boat.”
With the athletes going back home, head coach Brittany Roth said she used the time away from competition to help the team grow closer and have a stronger connection.
“We took some time for our team to have serious conversations about what we really hold valuable,” Roth said. “We’ve utilized this time from being away from one another being out of the pool so the team can unite and grow all in the same direction.”
Roth also said she wants her swimmers to make do with their given situation because not all pools are open yet. The swimming and diving team has athletes who live within nine different states and four international student-athletes.
“All cities and states are different on what’s allowed, we have athletes within a full spectrum with teams up and running while others are just waiting to touch water,” Roth said. “It’s all a part of a process and I’m a firm believer in doing whatever you can with what you have. All you can do in this situation is to be the best you can.”
The third virtual North Texas Coaches Caravan will go live on Facebook July 1 at 7 p.m. on the Mean Green Athletics’ Facebook page. Women’s basketball, women’s golf, tennis and cross country will include their head coaches and a student-athlete in the same format.
Courtesy 2020 Coaches Caravan Livestream
Source: North Texas Daily