Willie Nelson may not be the Chapman men’s basketball team’s artist du jour, but On The Road Again” would be a fitting theme song for this year’s squad.The Panthers, trying to improve on last season’s 20-7 record, will play at least 18 games away from the Harold Hutton Sports Center. Last season, they played 13 games away.The Panthers officially open the season at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps on November 17.”Playing on the road is really going to test our character,” said sophomore power forward Justin Riley.The Panthers feasted on a home-heavy schedule last season, winning 12 of 14 games in Orange. Chapman got the short end of the scheduling stick this season because it is an Independent team, meaning it is not part of a conference, according to Head Coach Mike Bokosky.”I want to win ’em all, but I’m a realist. There are seven or eight games out there where I know, talent wise, we will get our socks knocked off,” said Bokosky.Independent teams need near-perfect records to make the post season, said Riley. Consequently, the Panthers will have to improve on last season’s 8-5 road and neutral site record to have a shot at the playoffs.”Home games are great. You have your friends and family in the stands and it’s a court you’re familiar with. But on the road we will find out if we can really buckle down and play,” said Riley.Bokosky said that the road games will be tougher because the Panthers are young and inexperienced.The team’s only seniors are Robert Graham and Sean Vreeburg, both rotational players, and there are eight freshmen vying for playing time.”We have good players, but we’re not a good team yet. We’re young,” said Bokosky. “It’s going to be an interesting season for us to see if our talent will mature.”The Panthers’ only loss in the off-season was senior guard Miguel Bennet, the team’s second-leading scorer, averaging 9.8 points per game. “Inexperience isn’t an excuse. If guys play up to the talent level they have, we should be perfectly fine this season and we should be able to handle our business,” said junior center Jared Kaiser.Kaiser, along with fellow juniors Dan Aguilar and Kyle Wood, and sophomore Griffin Ramme, will return as starters. Riley will take Bennett’s place as the fifth starter.Because of Chapman’s no-cut policy, the team will have 24 players on its roster. Aguilar said only 12 to 14 will travel with the team. At home though, the Panthers will suit up “as many players as we have jerseys,” said Aguilar.Chapman has compiled three consecutive Division III Independent West Region championships, and it has finished with a winning record in each of the last 15 seasons.”Winning early is really important. You need to win one or two of those games early on so you can start to believe you can win,” said Bokosky. “And I know you have to be lucky to win some games, and you have to stay on task. Basketball is a marathon season.
Willie Nelson may not be the Chapman men’s basketball team’s artist du jour, but On The Road Again” would be a fitting theme song for this year’s squad.