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Men’s basketball stumbles early in season

Jeff Rickel/ Reporter

The Elon men’s basketball team has struggled in its first seven games this season, and has a 1-6 record to show for it.

Kate Ferris/ Photo Editor
Brian Waters shoots against Virginia Commonwealth in a losing effort. The Phoenix has dropped six of its first seven games on the season, entering conference play in December.

The schedule is one reason for this slow start. Phoenix losses this season include Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Virginia Commonwealth and Davidson, which won the Southern Conference Tournament last year.

“It is what it is,” head coach Ernie Nestor said of the schedule.

“This is not the way you want kids coming in to learn basketball. They’re not given a chance to develop confidence because of the tough schedule.”

Unfortunately for the Phoenix, its younger players have had to try and step up during this time, because of to injuries to senior starting guards Montell Watson and LeVonn Jordan.

“We need to get healthy,” Nestor said. “We need to be able to keep the kids we need on the floor, and we haven’t been able to do that with Montell and LeVonn being hurt.”

However, Nestor doesn’t want to use the team’s schedule and injuries as an excuse for how they are playing.

He also doesn’t want the players or fans to think that everything will be better when Watson and Jordan are healthy.

“Our players can’t get caught up and say it will be better when the guys are healthy,” Nestor said. “The guys that are hurt right now are not going to overcome the problems we’re having with interior play and rebounds.”

One department the Phoenix needs to improve on is turning the ball over less. In the team’s 48-62 loss to High Point on Monday, the Phoenix turned the ball over 26 times and had only three assists.

The team is also struggling to make shots this season. The Phoenix is shooting 39 percent from the floor, and is only shooting 29 percent on three-point attempts. Nestor thinks that the team’s shooting woes are only a part of the problem though.

“Missing shots is a symptom of our problems,” Nestor said. “Across the board we’re not playing well, we need more confidence. Once we have the confidence, the shots will come.”

Another problem with the team that Nestor addressed was that the older players are not competing at the level the team needs them to perform at.

One player who was brought up in this category was senior forward Chris Chalko. The team’s MVP the past two seasons is averaging 6.7 points and 3.7 rebounds per game. This is compared to his 12.6 points and 4.5 rebounds per game last season.

“Chris has to play better,” Nestor said. “He needs to play better defense, he needs to rebound better and he needs to make his shots.”

Not to single Chalko and the older players out, Nestor explained that the younger players need to make themselves accountable and even if the older players aren’t playing well, they need to rise up.

“The [younger players] need to step up,” Nestor explained. “They can’t sit back and wait for the older guys to come around or get healthy. They need to create solutions.”

The final thing that bothers Nestor with the way his team is playing, is that he feels he and the Phoenix are not giving the fans what they deserve.

“The fans helped us out so much last year and created a great environment for us to play in,” Nestor explained. “We feel bad about the basketball we’re playing right now, and we hope the fans show patience and let the team show them how we can really play.”

The Phoenix will continue its tough schedule by traveling to South Bend for its next game to play Notre Dame on Dec. 16.

Contact Jeff Rickel at or 278-7247.