Focus on team play leading to wins for USU Eastern men
The key to USU Eastern Golden Eagles' 4-0 start to the 2013-14 season isn't too much of a secret.
"It's not about one or two players, it's about the whole team playing hard on the court," said USU Eastern men's head coach Adjalma Becheli. "That's the secret for us."
The start to the season and the outlook is a complete turnaround for the second year head coach and a team with many new faces that have learned one simple thing: working together can lead to great things.
"We've got guards, bigs, shooters, shot blockers, defenders," said Becheli. "There is a lot of talent, size and athleticism on the team and they're learning to work really well as a team on the court."
That team concept has lead to early success for the Golden Eagles as they traveled to their second tournament in as many weeks to Yuma, Ariz., last weekend. Despite a tough environment and competitive teams looking to start their years off on a high note, the Golden Eagles persevered going 2-0 at the tournament to continue their unbeaten start to the new season.
The Golden Eagles defeated Tohono O'odham Community College 99-81 on Thursday, Nov. 7 and followed up with a comeback 77-75 win over Arizona Western on Friday Nov. 8.
Arizona Western took a 50-36 lead into halftime before the Golden Eagles made a second half run punctuated by the scoring from Eastern's Jaleni Neely and a strong defensive effort that held Arizona Western to 25 points in the second half.
"Playing down there in Arizona isn't easy so the wins were good to help build confidence for the team," Becheli explained.
Neely finished with a team-high 31 points in the win. He averaged 25 points per game during the tournament for the Golden Eagles.
While Neely's scoring performance was a welcome sight, Becheli said there will be nights where the team will need to lean on one player to carry the team.
"In the second half, Jaleni helped take over for us hitting some big shots to help us get the win," said Becheli.
Becheli said he was pleased to see the scoring distribution against Tohono O'odham which saw six Golden Eagle players finish in double figures in scoring. Neely led the team with 19 points that also saw Todd Helgesen (17), Alioune Tew (15), Kendahl Amerson (14) and Travon Langston and Trahmier Burrell each finished with 10 points.
"We've got 10 players that are playing this season," said Becheli. "The bench is helping maintaining our level of play each game."
Just four games into the season, Becheli knows that his team can score in bunches. But for the team to maintain success leading into Scenic West Athletic Conference play, improving free throw shooting and rebounding as well as adjusting to the new rules on defense regarding hand checks will be focuses for the team going forward.
"We're getting to the free throw line, but we're shooting poorly at the stripe," said Becheli noting that could hurt the team in the final moments of a close game.
The Golden Eagles will host their first two home games of the season against Impact Academy on Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday at 3 p.m. at the BDAC.