Women’s and men’s basketball teams each start their seasons with a win

Varsity women’s basketball bench cheers for their teammates during their preseason game at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA. Nov. 5, 2021. Abbott Hoeven/The Occidental

The Occidental women’s and men’s basketball teams both prevailed in their first games of the season last week, with the women’s team picking up the win over LIFE Pacific University, 62-59 and the men’s team beating the University of Antelope Valley, 74-68.

According to women’s basketball head coach Anahit Aladzhanyan, the team achieves greater results when they are focused on the present.

“We really like to focus on the process and what needs to happen every day,” Aladzhayan said. “Your results are kind of the byproducts of how well you’re able to do that together, because it is a team sport.”

According to Aladzhanyan, the team is focused on training both their minds and bodies this season. This training includes performing affirmations before practice, doing yoga and learning breathing exercises.

“It’s [yoga] just a great recovery tool and it helps center us. We have breathing exercises every season,” Aladzhanyan said. “At some point or another we’ll really start talking about mindfulness.”

Aladzhanyan said there are a lot of new players on the team this year, but they have six returning players who have helped the new players adjust.

“Returning players have done a phenomenal job of living up to our values and welcoming our 12 sophomore and first-year players,” Aladzhanyan said.

Captain Maylene Hughes (junior) dribbles the ball down the court in the varsity women’s basketball pre-season game at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA. Nov. 5, 2021. Abbott Hoeven/The Occidental

In addition to new players joining the team, Occidental hired a full-time assistant coach for the team — Isaiah Gatewood-Flowers. According to Gatewood-Flowers, his responsibilities include helping scout new players, which will allow Aladzhanyan to focus more on the day-to-day process of coaching.

According to Gatewood-Flowers, he wants the team to be successful, but first and foremost, he wants them to enjoy the opportunity to play after losing seasons during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The outcome will come if you enjoy the process, so enjoy the process. The seniors had a rough couple of years — they missed the entire year. Even the juniors missed an entire year of college basketball they would never get back,” Flowers said. “I want to win this SCIAC championship, if I’m being honest. But the process is the most important part, enjoying the time that we have together and really developing.”

According to Michael Wells, men’s basketball assistant coach, the team lost a lot of talent since it last competed, including All-SCIAC performers Ryan Kaneshiro ’20, Caleb Yellin-Flaherty ’20 and Jacob Adler ’21. Only three players on this year’s team are returners: guard Sydney Shipp (junior), forward Anthony Hollerich (junior) and guard/forward Kyle Dosa (senior), but Wells said the young team possesses great potential.

“Everyone else is brand new,” Wells said. “As the season goes on we’re very excited with so many guys with so much potential. In Division III college basketball, you just never know who is going to take off and when — it comes down to who has the ability to learn and who loves basketball”

Wells said the team’s basic strategies will not change this season. The coaching staff will continue to emphasize playing smart and hard.

“We want to shoot shots that we can make — we don’t want to turn the ball over and we want to play defense, and that recipe has been pretty successful,” Wells said.

Aiden Williams (sophomore), captain Kyle Dosa (senior), Tejan Lanser (junior) and Isaiah Jeannot (sophomore) play offense at the varsity men’s basketball’s preseason game at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA. Nov. 5, 2021. Abbott Hoeven/The Occidental

According to Shipp, players have to make some sacrifices in other areas of their lives for the team to be successful. The team practices six days a week and players will sometimes meet in the open gym just to get in some shots.

“We have the saying, ‘Say no to friends,'” Shipp said. “So on the weekend, since we have to get up early, we can’t really party or go out and stay out too late. We have to get to bed early usually, so we can wake up [and] have a good practice.”

At Occidental, most winter sports require student athletes to stay at the college over break instead of traveling home. According to Maylene Hughes (junior), a guard on the women’s team, players bond and spend a lot of time together over the break.

“We get really close,” Hughes said. “We have so much time outside of practice, so after practice we’re always doing something together.”

Shipp also said that the time together allows for more team bonding which improves their chemistry on the court.

“It is a good opportunity to really have camaraderie, to come together and know everybody and form those bonds that also helps us play better on the court,” Shipp said.

The women’s basketball and men’s basketball teams each have five more games before students start to leave campus for winter break. The women’s next home game is at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 10 against Bethesda University. The men’s basketball team’s next home game is at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 13 against Westmont College.