Keene State College men’s basketball is back.
The Owls travel to the University of New Hampshire Wednesday to open their season against the Wildcats at 1 p.m.
“Everyone’s excited,” said head coach Ryan Cain. “It’s been a crazy time. There’s a lot going on and it’s been a weird time for all our students on campus.
“It’s a great reward to be able to compete against somebody else. I think they’re really excited to do so.”
The team has been practicing on-and-off since early October, with no guarantee of even having a season.
“We appreciate it for what it is,” Cain said, adding that scheduling this non-conference match-up took an incredible amount of effort from just about everyone at both schools, including the school presidents.
UNH fields a Division I men’s basketball program, which means stiff competition for the Division III Owls. But Cain said that hasn’t changed the mindset of the team while preparing for the game.
“We try to break games into small segments and not focus on the result of the game and focus on … what you want to do throughout the game,” he said.
So what does he want to do throughout the game?
“It’s two things. One: Did we leave there and have a good time competing against someone else for the first time? I think that’s first and foremost,” Cain said. “The second thing is just competing. I think our guys want to show that we belong on the court with guys who are scholarship-level, Division 1 players. With the guys that we have, if we compete really hard, we can feel good about the way that we play.”
Keene State won’t be playing the scoreboard, Cain said, rather, they’ll be taking it possession-by-possession, using this game as an opportunity to get a better feel for the strengths and weaknesses of the team.
Roster size for Wednesday’s game will be “on the smaller side,” Cain said. The Owls will have 10 players available.
Among them will be senior James Anozie, who averaged 11.2 points per game for Keene State last year. Other returners who will see playing time Wednesday are sophomore Jeff Hunter, who contributed 10.1 points and eight rebounds per game last year, and senior Jaylen Franklin.
Freshman Nate Siow is slated to start at point guard for the Owls. The newcomer scored over 1,000 points during his high school career in Lowell, Mass.
“Nate is kind of our first-year guy tomorrow,” Cain said. “I’m excited to see what that looks like.”
The Owls’ schedule after Wednesday’s game still has not been decided, but this will likely be the first and only non-conference game. Although the Little East Conference has not announced a conference schedule for this season, Cain said the team is optimistic that they will play this year.
Until then, the Owls are focused on the task at hand.
“This is an awesome opportunity to prepare for a crazy year,” Cain said. “It’s our first opportunity to prepare for what a season will look like in this crazy environment.”
The game will be available to stream on ESPN3.