Adversity comes in many forms; in sports, it tends to follow losses. Losses can act as a chisel, wearing away at a team’s foundation ultimately splitting them apart as frustration mounts.
That’s not the case for the Miami Dade College men’s basketball team.
Despite what head coach Kevin Ledoux calls “one of the nation’s toughest schedules,” the Sharks (5-14) have remained steadfast in their journey to claim the Southern Conference championship.
“This team is tough,” Ledoux said. “The record doesn’t indicate how good this basketball team is and how [good] it is going to be. We’ve been in every game we have played [basically] so we’re feeling pretty good considering what the record is.”
The Sharks high-octane offense is averaging 102.1 points per game, placing them second in the nation. They are also in the top ten in field goal attempts and three-point field goals attempted nationally, according to the National Junior College Athletic Association.
But the team has faced problems with efficiency. They’re 176th in field goal percentage (42.0 percent), 162nd in three-point field goal percentage (31.5 percent), 143rd in rebounding margin (+3.6 rebounds per game) and they’re averaging 16.3 assists per game while committing the same amount of turnovers per game.
Ledoux is unfazed by the inefficiency the team has shown at times. He uses it as an example of where the team can grow.
“Obviously our goal is to win games, not lose them,” Ledoux said. “So I think with playing these top teams, our guys’ experience what it takes to be a top program. [That] helps our team out as the season moves to conference play. Right now our biggest focus is to make sure the players’ confidence stays high and we maintain our chemistry. We have a special locker room and we have players who have stuck with each other.”
Ledoux has worked hard at keeping team chemistry. He has leaned heavily on the Sharks eight sophomores. They dedicate time in practice to what he calls the five H’s: heartache, highlights, hope, heros and history. Players gather to speak about moments where they’ve felt heartache, highlights, an example of hope, a moment where they have felt like a hero or a hero of theirs and a meaningful life story.
“There’s a lot of trust in our teammates,” said sophomore forward Nicholas Kratholm, who is averaging 10.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. “We play so hard and fast that we have to know we all have each other’s back during the games.”
There is also a marked difference in last season’s team mentality compared to this season.
“Last season, toward the end when things got tough, the atmosphere changed,” said forward DJ Russell. “It’s not that we gave up, but we seemed to not push ourselves as much. This year we’re pushing each other. We’re learning from our mistakes and we’re more confident in our potential.”
Russell is one of this season’s highlights. The sophomore leads the team in scoring (19.6 points per game), rebounds (11 rebounds per game) and is second in field goal percentage (50.0 percent).
With the Southern Conference portion of the Sharks schedule underway, the team has shifted its focus toward a possible post-season run at the state tournament.
“We’re ready for anything,” Kratholm said. “Apart from a game or two, we’ve been able to matchup against tough opponents so now our goal is to show that we’ve grown from this schedule.”
The Sharks’ next game is at home at the Theodore R. Gibson Health Center, 11011 S.W. 104th St., against Broward College on Jan. 16 at 7:30 p.m.