Renegades basketball ready to step up this season

By JeffGraveline

After last season’s woes and financial trouble, the Columbia College Renegades basketball team is heading in a new direction.

With the addition of 2007 Columbia grad, Head Coach Joseph Phillips, his hard- nosed conditioning program and a strong summer season under their belts, the Renegades are prepared to show that they’re not to be taken lightly on the court or in the paint anymore.

“We’re going to take this thing seriously,” Phillips said.

Last season, the team was more “street ball” than basketball, Phillips said. Since taking control of the team, Phillips has implemented a conditioning program to make sure his players can last on the hardwood.

“I told [the team], ‘If you’re going to go and compete against anybody, you have to be in shape, that’s the first thing,’” Phillips said.

The Renegades, a club team, were taking on official universities and college teams in past years.

A club team is run for students, by students, with minimal faculty involvement. Students on the team raise their own funds, make their schedule and find their own transportation to and from games.

The disadvantage of being a club team rather than a school-sanctioned team was evident from tipoff usually, according to Mark Brticevich, Columbia’s Fitness, Athletics and Recreation director. He said it wasn’t uncommon for the team to lose by 40 to 50 points last season.

“They played against [junior colleges] and they played against division three level teams,” Brticevich said. “They’re (other teams) used to playing as a team, they’re used to regimented practices, they’re used to certain things.  So by and large, we got beat by double the score.”

Phillips hopes to change those lopsided losses into victories with hard work and better organization. The team hasn’t been able to hold conventional practice because of a lack of gym space at Columbia. The college lost its basketball gym space last year and is currently working towards securing a new home court.

“I’m looking for 100 percent effort, you don’t have to be the best basketball player, just go out there and give me 100 percent,” Phillips said. “Whether it’s in drills, whether it’s making a chest pass or finishing a lay up on a fast break, give it 100 percent. Anything other than 100 percent is failure.”

During the summer, Phillips excelled at getting 100 percent out of his players, pushing them to the point of exhaustion in drills.

“We were conditioning at the lakefront, I had the guys out there playing on the play ground,” Phillips said. “We took advantage of the resources that were given to us, which was the lakefront. We were out there running on the beach, I had them running on the grass, we were running.”

All the running paid off during summer league play, when the team went 9 – 4. The team’s strong summer gives hope for the upcoming season.

“Last year we played Trinity Christian College, Truman College, Northwestern University’s club team,” said Kevin Heartmann, captain of the basketball team and vice-president of the Renegades organization. “We’re looking at a Chicago public city league, hopefully often playing club teams from Northwestern andw DePaul University’s club team,”

For the team, the goals have been clearly defined by Phillips. He wants the team conditioned and he wants them to bring a championship to the college. While a championship may be the long term goal, competing and playing hard are goals that can be reached this season.

The goals that the team and Phillips have set are lofty, but reachable as the new season looms. The first game for the Renegades basketball team is on Nov. 4 at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Ill.