The Western Mustangs men's basketball team will be young and inexperienced when the 2016-17 season rolls around.
Leading this new-look Mustangs team that lost three key players from last year will be Eric McDonald and Alex Coote, who are excited to lead the program into a new era.
McDonald, a fourth-year social science student, understands the significance of being named a captain of such a historically significant university basketball program.
“It’s a huge honour honestly," said McDonald. "This is a storied program that’s always been really successful so it’s definitely not something I take lightly. A lot of people told me they expected me to be the captain cause I’m the oldest guy on the team. It’s not something I wanted to just assume would happen but something that I earned. It’s something I’m really proud of.”
Losing the likes of Greg Morrow, the most prolific scorer in the history of Western basketball, and Tony Spiridis, an energetic leader and defender for the squad, leaves a massive void in the program.
But McDonald and Coote hope they have learned enough from their predecessors to bring together a young team and overcome the questions surrounding the season.
“The team is way different this year for sure," said Coote, a third-year engineering student. "It’s weird not having those guys here since they’ve been here since day one. They all had different leadership aspects, Tony was out there and Greg was quiet and led by example and all that. They taught a lot of lessons.”
The two captains will try to take some of those lessons of being effective captains, being vocal and displaying leadership through action, and allow the Mustangs to make another push at a playoff appearance.
“I think for both me and Coote it’s gonna be huge cause we’re really young so we’ve been trying to get these guys up to speed with all our system,"McDonald said about how important their captaincy is for this Mustangs team. "So it really is showing leadership through your actions but most of it actually is talking through things, telling them what they’re doing wrong and a lot of it is gonna be vocal stuff with me and him but they’re doing great so far.”
Coote expects the Mustangs to exceed expectations this season. While the team doesn't have the experience of the nation's powerhouse programs, the Mustangs are talented and have the youthful energy to compete in the OUA.
"I think our guys are taking to it pretty well and I think we could surprise some teams for sure," said Coote. "I mean it is a different year and we have a whole new group and a whole different set of expectations but there’s some talent and the guys are picking everything up pretty quick so it’s exciting.”
The Mustangs open their season on Nov. 5 against Guelph. In what many expect to be a rebuilding year as the program moves on from that stellar graduating class of 2016, the Mustangs will have nothing to lose this season.
With Coote and McDonald filling the captains roles, the Mustangs will have the competent leadership required to succeed on the court.