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Redshirt senior guard Joe Quintana returns to the court in front of fans for the first time since his injury and is looking to take on a leadership role for the Lions.

The start of the 2021-2022 LMU men’s basketball season has fans electrified to watch Lions basketball in person for the first time in over a year, but for redshirt senior guard Joe Quintana, it is an opportunity to show what he and the team can do in front of fans. This season will be the first time Quintana plays in front of fans since he suffered a season-ending ACL injury during the 2019-2020 season.

“Emotions are high. Missing my junior year – supposed to have a big year, kind of hurt so I’ve had a chip on my shoulder ever since then,” Quintana said. “That injury was something I never thought would ever happen to me. Just playing basketball my whole life and not having any serious injuries up until then was kind of like an eye-opener for me.”

Quintana’s rehab to get back to the court became one of the toughest experiences he would face in his collegiate career. However, Quintana saw this rough patch as a way to learn and grow.

“The rehab was a lot – it was painful. I didn’t have any muscles on my quad or my whole leg for a couple months. Doing simple exercises, like bending my knee, was painful. Getting through the rehab and all that stuff with bending my knee and getting my strength back was probably the toughest thing I’ve done in my life. Honestly, I haven’t really felt that ever. Going through that taught me a lot of things and taught me a lot of things about myself – that I can pursue anything.”

Because of COVID-19, Quintana was unable to make his bounce-back return to the floor in front of LMU fans. Now that fans are back allowed into Gersten Pavilion, he is excited to feel the energy they present.

“Playing in front of the fans, you know, that's something you can’t really experience unless you are on the floor,” Quintana said. “The energy that the fans give off is something that we’re also looking forward to. Just for me, personally, I can’t wait to get back onto the floor and show what I can do and show what our team can do as well.”

As one of the leaders of the team, Quintana expressed how important it was to embrace this leadership role and mentor the younger players.

“I’m just telling them [to not] put their head down when they make a mistake. You know, they’re freshmen, they’re young, so they're going to make mistakes – it's inevitable. Whenever they’re out there, just to make the most of it and give everything they got,” Quintana said. “So just telling them to keep their head up, don’t dwell on mistakes and to have a short memory – don’t dwell on the past.”

Last season, the Lions finished with their best conference record since 2012 (13-9 overall, 7-5 conference). In addition to fans returning, Quintana sees this season as an opportunity to build off the promising efforts that the Lions put forth in the previous season.

“I feel like what we did last year is a starting point. We don’t have any excuses. There was a lot of games we could’ve won, but I mean with [COVID-19] and all the injuries that we had last year, I think we did what we were able to do and now what we know we are capable of, you know, our goals are set a lot higher. Being number one in WCC and making it into the March Madness Tournament,” Quintana said.

Part of building off of last season's successes is creating an identity for this new-look Lions team. With Eli Scott returning for another season and new additions like Cam Shelton, the Lions look to exceed their West Coast Conference (WCC) preseason rankings, in which they were ranked fourth.

“The identity of our team is to defend, rebound and run ... What we want to do is guard as best as we can on the perimeter, play aggressive, show our toughness. With this new 5-out offense, being able to run – because we have a lot of guards, we have a lot of smaller players – so being able to outrun opponents. And just out rebounding them as well. You know we are going to have to be a really physical team with our size,” Quintana said.

Quintana is coming off a career year averaging 9.3 points per game while shooting 43% from the field. Coming into this year, Quintana is looking to boost his role as an outside scorer.

“For me, personally, I’m trying to be the best shooter in the country,” said Quintana. “I had a pretty good percentage last year, but I think, for me, just trying to show everyone I can be the best shooter and the best teammate in the country.”

In just his second outing this season, Quintana recorded a 26-point career-high while making six three-pointers in a win against Arizona Christian. With the new season underway, Quintana and the team are excited to prove themselves as a top contender in the WCC this season.

“We are all ready to come out there and play in front of all of our fans – we all miss playing in front of all of them. We’re just excited to get everyone back out there, so we can show them what we can do.”

Khassim Diakhate is a freshman journalism major from Seattle, Washington. Khassim enjoys watching the Portland Trail Blazers and not losing in NBA 2K.

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