By Manny Nunez
It is always tough to try and build off the success from last year when you run a collegiate program. This holds even truer for all mid-major colleges, which is where Pepperdine falls. Last season the Waves were able to match their success from 2015 with 18 wins and a bid to the CBI. It isn’t the glamorous NIT or NCAA Tournament, but making the postseason nowadays shows the direction where the program could be headed.
Times are much different this season with the Waves currently at 4-6. A blowout loss to USC doesn’t really tell the entire picture as to what this team is dealing with at the moment.
Even if head coach Marty Wilson has other things on his mind for his players.
“Right now, our team just has to get through Finals week,” Wilson said. “These guys have dealt with a lot over the last few weeks and we have been off our game defensively. It showed tonight against USC, where we have had a difficult time getting back in position. We have to get through this week and then get back to work.”
One of the major concerns Wilson had is keeping his players healthy throughout the season. It is imperative as he wants his team to be a legitimate competitor in the West Coast Conference. Unfortunately, losing key starters has stymied the Waves’ ascension. Redshirt sophomore Kameron Edwards suffered a fractured jaw during a preseason scrimmage and has been out since the beginning. Senior Amadi Udenyi tore his right ACL and is out for the year.
“I have been preaching to my team about staying alert when the time is needed,” Wilson said. “Our freshman right now are getting a lot of valuable playing time with our veterans. It will pay off in the long run, but right now we are disassembled.”
The phrase ‘next man up’ has more meaning than ever for a team like this. Last night two freshmen started (Chris Hellums and Nolan Taylor) while Lamond Murray Jr. and Chris Reyes have been picking up a lot of the slack in recent games. The guys know what they are missing, but they are making the best of their situation.
Compared to last season, there has been a mix of rotations. On average, five of the nine players that see the floor are new to the team. The chemistry is off, but it could come back with the return of Edwards.
“Our leaders have to come from more than just Lamond Murray,” Wilson said. “Chris Reyes and Jeremy Major have to step up as well if we can get this team to where it needs to be.”
For the Waves it is not so much wins but rather staying in games and being able to compete. They can in their final two non-conference games against Louisiana Lafayette and Montana, but their non-conference schedule starts brutally with Gonzaga.
Still, as the Waves were picked to be fourth in the Conference, there is still work to do, but the light can be seen at the end with Edwards returning.
“It is a work in progress,” Wilson said. “Our guys know what they are capable of, but with whoever is on the court we have to do more in order to be a successful team.”