The UST men’s basketball team won their second consecutive title at the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament on March 21 against Trinity University.
The team’s victory normally would have earned them an automatic bid into the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division Three National Championship, but due to the 2018 UST athletics’ change from the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics to the NCAA, the team has been completing a three year “probation period” that preventing participation in the national tournament.
Because of COVID-19, 2021’s national tournament was cancelled, eliminating the automatic entry a team would obtain for winning first place at the SCAC. Because of this, UST was able to participate in this season’s tournament while still following probation guidelines.
The team is led by Head Coach Anthony Medina, who said he focuses on developing the inner workings of the team with his coaching philosophy.
“I’m a big believer in operating from part to whole,” Medina said.
“On a day to day basis, we train individual skills that fundamentally build what we expect the team to be able to do.”
Medina says that every day, he starts by practicing with individual players and working on four distinct areas: passing, shooting, finishing and footwork.
Physical conditioning is another major aspect of training, he said.
“I’m not a believer in just running, so all the drills that we do have running built into them, like when working on their finishing they are running and moving, which helps them build their conditioning,” Medina said.
Medina, who is a former player of the 2009-2012 UST men’s basketball team, credits his former coach and current athletic director Todd Smith for influencing his coaching style.
“Playing for [Smith], I learned a lot about coaching, working with players, and developing relationships,” Medina said.
“But really my coaching style is also a big part of who I am naturally, because I believe I’m a very nurturing and flexible person which has impacted how I coach my players.”
Medina believes that the victory against Trinity was anchored by the defense of the men’s basketball team, and called their performance “incredible.”
“I think that set the tone for the rest of the team; it gave us opportunities to gain shots when we needed them,” Medina said.
“It was no doubt our defense and the commitment they had of really just playing together.”
Medina says that the team’s biggest strength is their character.
“They are high character people. They are committed to doing things right by taking care of their things in the classroom and treating people the right way,” Medina said.
SeniorBBA/MBA accounting major Cameron Gims agrees that the athletic atmosphere set by the coaches ensures everyone on the team continues to work hard.
“We always compete with each other during practice, and even when we are done with practice everyone is always taking extra shots at night or before practice,” Gims said.
Gims says that Medina sets the bar high during the team’s practices, which allows for more focus from the players when competing in drills.
Moreover, the team’s members have strong chemistry when playing together, which, according to Gims, is something that has played a large role in developing their abilities and athletic counterparts.
“We all love each other, we always hang out before and after practice,” Gims said.
As for the future of the men’s basketball team, Medina believes that there is always room for growth, and just as he expects his team members to grow in their skills, he expects himself to grow each new playing season.
“I have to keep learning and getting better because [the players] do. If I have a ceiling in my ability and they hit that ceiling, I can no longer help them improve,” Medina said.
“That’s why it is important for me to improve, because if I don’t then I am cheating them out of an opportunity to help them get better.”