Last year the men’s basketball team learned what it is like to face adversity. At times during the end of last year’s season, nearly half the team experienced injuries that limited performance. Players were forced to play through injuries, while others had to step up and fill the gaps. Therefore, a huge emphasis on the off-season was making sure that they would be healthy with a refreshed mindset for the 2011-2012 season. As is the case for most years, the team lost a couple of seniors from last year’s team that will be a very difficult challenge to replace. Nevertheless, the Pilots have brought in five freshmen who they are extremely high on and feel that they have enormous potential. In addition, with a wild, crazy, unpredictable season that the team experienced last year, nearly all the returning players have a decent amount of experience. With the MCC being one of the toughest conferences in the nation, the Pilots were picked 8th in the conference; however, that means very little with as deep of a conference the MCC is. Head Coach, Mike Lightfoot, is returning for his 25th season and is not too fazed by any preseason polls or predictions. “Our non-conference schedule will give us a good feel for where we are,” said Coach Lightfoot. “I see our team improving every day.” Coach Lightfoot did note that he hopes this team will do everything it can to play at the highest possible level in order to live up to the rich tradition of success that the Pilots have. When it comes to this season, there are three main goals that Coach Lightfoot hopes to install into the minds of all the players and coaches. The first of those is to obviously take care and recover from injuries. There were three returning players that were forced to have surgeries over the offseason, which include Jordan Bowerman, who had ACL surgery, Cody Cochran, who had foot surgery, and Ryan Benner, who had two knee surgeries. He also noted that Darrell Hopkins has been restricted with a knee injury this offseason. The second area was spiritual growth. Last summer, the team took a task force trip to the Dominican Republic which he felt went very well. “The trip brought us closer as a team but more importantly we all grew in our spiritual walk,” said Coach Lightfoot. The third area that he hopes the team to focus on is strength and fitness. Although the players experienced brutal preseason conditioning which is normal for every season, he believes that they will be ready in that regards. Coach Lightfoot is uncertain as to how the season will unfold, but he knows what needs to happen in order to have success. Another area of emphasis this year is on leadership. According to him, it all starts with Coach Tony Natali and Coach Ryne Lightfoot. In addition, he is looking for leadership from a number of players as well. “Jordan Bowerman, Landon Booker and Matt Owens have been very good so far at leading on and off the floor,” said Coach Lightfoot. “A key for us will be how our leaders lead when faced with adversity in games and throughout the challenging season.” Overall, Coach Lightfoot believes that it is this leadership that will guide the newcomers on this team through a very difficult schedule. In his 25 years of coaching, Coach Lightfoot believes that this is the youngest team he has ever coached.