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‘To grow the right way’

Hampden-Sydney College’s (H-SC) men’s basketball team enters its game Saturday, Jan. 11, with a 7-6 overall record thus far in the 2019-20 season, already a significant improvement on last season and the season before when the Tigers went 4-19 and 6-20, respectively.

The 2019-20 Tigers entered the week fresh off their sixth win in a row, which came 54-52 against visiting Guilford College, the No. 21-ranked team in the country for NCAA Division III men’s basketball.

“They just beat Emory (University) on a buzzer-beater, and Emory was the No. 2 team in the country, so they were coming off a really big win, and yeah, they’re a really good team, so that was a great win for us,” first-year H-SC Head Coach Caleb Kimbrough said.

In a Monday, Jan. 6, interview, Kimbrough gave his evaluation of the Tigers through their 12 games played at that point with a 7-5 record.

“I love our staff, and this group of guys,” he said. “Obviously with it being the first year, we’re still learning each other and trying to connect and kind of grow, but all the guys, I think, are really committed to doing that and they’ve, I think, entrusted me to lead them, which has been great. That can be difficult to do sometimes when you’re new. So, they’re playing extremely hard, and they’re really trying to connect, and I think they have the right type of mindset.”

Remarkably, the 2019-20 Tigers are comprised of mostly underclassmen, including seven freshmen and four sophomores to go with only two seniors and four juniors.

Asked if the team’s fast start was something he expected or if it exceeded his expectations, Kimbrough said, “That’s a great question. I don’t know what kind of expectation I had, kind of taking it day by day. I knew a couple of the players just from maybe the recruiting world and previous schools, and I knew there was some talent on the team, but I think it … comes down to chemistry and how people are going to commit to what you want to do in creating an identity for your team. … And I think, slowly but surely, we’ve started to grow the right way … I don’t know that I thought we’d reel off six straight. I think that’s been a pleasant surprise, but we have a pretty gritty group, and we’re big. For Division III, we’re a big team, so that’s been a big advantage for us …”

Team leaders the coach highlighted include junior center/forward Jake Hahn, senior guard/forward Kevin Quinn and junior center Baker Haviland.