BALDWIN CITY — The Ottawa University men’s basketball team is built around the team concept. So far that philosophy is working.
The Braves opened the season 3-0 for the first time since the 2014-15 season. Ottawa garnered two victories this past weekend in the Virgin Islands Classic and topped rival Baker Wednesday in Baldwin City.
“This is a fun group,” fourth-year Ottawa coach Aaron Siebenthall said. “They get along well, like each other and that really shows.”
Siebenthall said this team does not rely on one player to score 20-plus points a night.
“We have a lot of guys that can score,” Siebenthall said. “The tallest guys on our team can shoot the three. We spread the floor. We have a lot of shooters. We are hard to guard if we share the ball. If the ball is stagnant and one guy holds it, we are easy to guard.”
That ball movement on offense is a strength of the Braves. Ottawa dished 23 assists in the 89-78 victory over Baker.
“We had at least 20 assists in all three games,” Siebenthall said. “It is a product of our guys enjoying each other, trusting each other and trusting our (plays).”
The coach said this group’s mentality is to never back down from a challenge.
“The three things I tell our guys before every game is I want you to play as hard as you can for as long as you can, do team things and always stick together no matter what is happening,” Siebenthall said. “If we do those things, we will like the results. We like the results so far. Hopefully, we will stick to that mantra and our guys will buy into that. One thing I can tell you is these guys will come out and play hard. They have proven that for three games.”
The coach said the players have bought into each other with the eight returners mixing in well with a couple of transfers.
“Sometimes those trips (like to Virgin Islands) can produce that chemistry on the court,” Siebenthall said. “We are playing mostly returners. A couple of our transfers are not able to play for us yet. Jaquan Daniels is the main guy. Joe Johnson III was with us last year, but had to redshirt. They are fitting in great. Joe gave us a huge spark (against Baker). We were kind of stagnant in the second half. He hit a big three and he is always good defensively. Joe gave us some good minutes.”
Siebenthall has quickly utilized the Braves’ team speed, opening up the offense.
“Offensively, we are trying something new,” he said. “We recruited a different type of player as far as our big guys. We get a lot of points in the paint because we run, not necessarily because we post up. We go position-less a little bit.”
Ottawa has a nine-day break to rest and add to the repertoire. Ottawa will play Nov. 8-9 in the Braves Classic against Calvary University (7 p.m. Friday) and Kansas Christian College (2 p.m. Saturday).