The men’s basketball team hosted an open practice at Gersten Pavilion on Friday, Oct. 4 for fans, supporters and members of the media to catch their first glimpse of the 2019-2020 squad.
The practice showed a largely new Lions team, which has just six returning players.
Junior forward Eli Scott, a major returner for the Lions, brings length and size as he looks to step into an increased role this year. While the 6-foot-6-inch, 245-pound Scott has spent the majority of his two years at LMU as a forward, sixth-year head coach Mike Dunlap plans to play him at point guard for multiple stretches this season, which he did during the scrimmage.
“We can play Eli at the one—Eli is a facilitator and a mismatch at the one for everybody in our league,” Dunlap said. “He is a mismatch waiting to happen at the four and the one position. He’s a very special player.”
Alongside Scott, the team returns five other players — sophomore guard/forward Dameane Douglas, sophomore forward Ivan Alipiev, junior guard Joe Quintana, junior forward Jordan Bell, and guard Erik Johansson, the lone senior on the squad. Center Mattias Markusson, a junior last season, is redshirting this season, according to Dunlap. The returning players know that they have to step up off the court as well.
“We’ve got a lot of skill in our freshman class, but the main void is leadership,” Douglas said. “That’s where me, Joe, Eli [and] Erik have to step up.”
The Lions will feature an incoming class of eight new players, of seven freshmen and one junior college transfer, junior forward Parker Dortch. Dunlap expressed optimism about the abilities of the new players to help fill the holes left by departed players.
“We’re pretty athletic, whether it’s Jonathan [Dos Anjos] or Parker Dortch,” he said. “And then we can shoot the three better. So I think it’s with our recruits, that’s how we make it up.”
Because many of the players on the roster have never played together before, the team placed a strong emphasis on developing chemistry in the offseason. They took part in a variety of non-basketball activities that helped them become better teammates to one another.
“Whether it’s an escape room exercise where they have to communicate with each other or a two-day hike or whatever it is … the bottom line is forcing them to communicate,” Dunlap said.
Communication will be necessary as the team prepares for its first game on Nov. 5.
“We're going to be a good team, we know that,” said Johansson. “[We need to] just focus on being in the moment and take it one day at a time.”
And despite the team’s ranking at seventh in the conference in the annual conference preseason coaches’ poll, Quintana has faith that his team will perform well in the 2019-20 season.
“We have a lot of haters,” said Quintana. “Everyone doubts us—that’s every year—so that’s one of the biggest things that we’re trying to prove to everyone. We know what we have to do and we’re about to just shock everybody.”