Entering into the 2009-2010 season as the new kids on campus, Andrew Thorne and Owen Longacre saw immediate success. The Royals ended the season 25-5 with the school’s first trip to the Elite Eight and a national #4 rank. The team, having lost only one senior at the end of the season, was beginning to gain hype as they headed into the next year.
The very high expectations set by the previous campaign were not met when the Royals were surprisingly overlooked on Selection Day for the NCAA DIII National Tournament with only five losses overall. Now, as the lone seniors on the team, Longacre and Thorne have the job to lead this team to another March Madness.
Experience came early to these two athletes, even with the talent pool that was already located on EMU’s campus, as both earned significant minutes their first two years. “They were able to understand the system better, playing their first two years with that group of guys that had so much success,” explains head coach Kirby Dean. “It allowed them to come into their junior years and accept leadership roles quickly.”
“Playing early on, I was somewhat timid,” Owen Longacre remembers. “Stepping into the responsibility I had as a junior, my biggest concern was basically being more assertive.” Part of this is merely being familiar with the system, something that has developed well over the course of three years for Longacre. “Understanding advantages and adjusting to new personnel are two big areas of improvement for me.” Longacre understands what his role as a leader is, trying to maintain the level of excellence that was left with him when the core group of five seniors graduated in 2011. “I can only do so much as an individual, so leading for me means setting an example. I constantly have to be focused and prepared.”
“It felt good to step in as leaders,” explicates Andrew Thorne in reference to his junior year. “We might not have had as successful of a season, but Owen and I kept fighting. We took that same role into this year. We do whatever we have to do to win.” As veterans, they also gained a better perspective of the team. “We could have just given up on last year and just tried to get ours, but we didn’t. We were focused on the team.” The experience gained during the last three years extends farther than game day for Thorne, who, after being awarded All-ODAC Third Team last year, has come into this year with that momentum, averaging a little over 16 points per game to go along with his 7.2 rebounds each contest. “I really just think my attitudes have changed, coming to EMU. I work harder, both on and off the court.”
In their last year together on the court, Andrew Thorne and Owen Longacre are doing whatever is best to give their team the opportunity to win. They have a tall order ahead of them with their first-year team being the comparison.
“We’ve already established ourselves as grown from last year”, Longacre explains about his current situation. “We just have to continue to grow together.”
-Cutter Chisnell, Sports Co-Editor