Panthers adjusting after return to practice

Maurice Phipps, Staff Reporter

The past five to six months have been an entirely new experience for Eastern men’s basketball coach Jay Spoonhour and the entirety of the men’s basketball team. Both players and coaches had to deal with the absence of practice and team meetings until even now. In Spoonhour’s ninth year at Eastern, this is undoubtedly the most unique situation he has been put in.

“You don’t really appreciate something until it’s taken away from you,” said Spoonhour about last season’s abrupt ending due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Strict regulations are still in place. There hasn’t been an official team practice yet. Practices have been more individual. There’s been a “high learning curve” according to Spoonhour.

The NCAA has yet to announce if and when the season will start. Spoonhour said he is hopeful that November will be when the season will begin. However, he said there have been positives in the limited practices that have taken place, and even with the limited practices, both Spoonhour and the team are happy to be playing.

The team is composed of returning seniors and incoming new players. Spoonhour said he likes the newcomers, labeling them as “talented” and “being coached before.” Within those returning seniors is Mack Smith, who Spoonhour took note of, saying he “looks great physically.”

Smith averaged 13.4 points per game last season including a season high 25 on Feb. 13 against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville.

Spoonhour also said he has high hopes for the incoming freshmen who he said have impressed and fit in as great pieces that the team needs, A total of four freshmen guards are listed on the roster, and Spoonhour has taken a liking to them.

When asked how the team planned on maintaining their dominance at home and improving their record on the road, Spoonhour stated that they want to get a great rhythm going in the practices and have great execution in order for that to translate to games.

Last season the Panthers boasted an impressive 11-2 record at home games, including big wins against Tennessee Tech and Southern Illinois-Edwardsville. Their 5-11 away record left a lot to be desired.

This season the Panthers’ schedule is difficult on paper, as they play powerhouses Kansas and Butler both as away games. Spoonhour did not make too much of a mention of them, rather insisting that even the in-conference games are difficult.


Maurice Phipps can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]