By Julian Bell
(TEANECK) – The Fairleigh Dickinson University Men’s Basketball team has high hopes this year after earning a spot in the NCAA Tournament last season. After finishing the 2015-2016 season with an overall record of 18-15 and 11-7 in the NEC, the Knights seek to make crucial adjustments that will propel them to the NCAA Tournament for a second straight season. Interestingly, these adjustments will be made both on and off the court according to the men’s basketball Head Coach Greg Herenda.
Entering his fourth season as the Knights head coach, Herenda has a simple yet profound game plan: remain disciplined. After having the privilege of sitting down with Herenda to talk about the upcoming season, his passion, loyalty and dedication to his team was immediately apparent. Perhaps what is most impressive is Herenda’s determination to not only develop an effective team, but a well-rounded one.
Herenda believes that in order for his team to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament this upcoming season, crucial adjustments must be made. However, Herenda believes that the Knights must adjust not only individually, but also collectively. After questioning him on the specific areas of improvement, Herenda eloquently outlined his plan for the 2016-2017 season.
“Very much like last year, we need to improve on a daily basis,” said Herenda. “Our common theme this year is to advance. We need to advance individually, as a team, as well as advance academically. We have to get better. On a daily basis, we make our players work hard so they can get better.”
Herenda passionately believes that his team can and will improve. Though the Knights became NEC champions last year, a feat that they had not achieved again since 2005, Coach Herenda still emphasizes the need to improve. In doing so, he also mentions some of the team’s struggles last season and the importance of faith in one another.
“The year prior to our championship year, we lost 15 straight games, but we just continued to believe in ourselves and in each other,” said Herenda. “In our last 10 games, last year, we lost five and we won five. This year we have to be the team that knows how to win those five games, but it’s going to take a lot of work. We have to become a better defensive team and a better rebounding team. I just love this group; they work hard, they play together, they play for one another. I’m really excited about this team this year just like I was excited about our team last year and we will eventually get what we deserve.”
Herenda does not shy away from mentioning the games his team has lost. In fact, he embraces them and views these losses as a stepping-stone to future victories for the Knights. Herenda believes that once these crucial adjustments are made and consistent effort is put forth every day, the men’s basketball team will be a dominant force in their division this season.
This season, the Knights will be going up against some rather impressive teams in their nonconference schedule. These include a game against the Ohio State Buckeyes as well as against the Seton Hall Pirates. However, Herenda is not intimidated. In fact, when asked about some of the potential obstacles that the Knights might face this upcoming season, Herenda only mentioned challenges within the team.
“The only obstacles would be not improving, not working, things that I’m not afraid of because we work hard and we improve,” said Herenda. “The key to success in college basketball is hunger and the hungry cat hunts best. If you’re not hungry, you don’t get fed. Our guys are really hungry and I think we have a great opportunity to play in front of our student body, faculty, and our staff. We’re excited to come out and show people that we’re still hungry and very focused. We want to take each possession of every second of every game very importantly and then we’ll get what we deserve. So, I’m not fearful of that because that’s how we’re built. We just work hard and do our jobs and stay focused and stay hungry.”
This season, the Knights are definitely hungry, but so is Herenda. Herenda also has high hopes for some of the team’s newcomers, who have no choice but to learn how to become part of Herenda’s hungry Knights.
The men’s basketball season will commence with the addition of some new players which will contribute to Herenda’s idea of a well-rounded, disciplined team. Though all of the players from last year’s team are still on the roster, Herenda anticipates that the addition of fresh prospects will only help the Knights reach their goals. In fact, when asked about what he thought about this year’s team, Herenda responded quite optimistically.
“We really haven’t lost any contributors from last year’s team so it’s going to be hard for our newcomers to help us,” said Herenda. “However, we have two players, one being Kaleb Bishop, a freshman who is a very athletic, young, raw athlete/basketball player and Nadi Beciri who is a junior college transfer who has a strong physical presence. Both of those guys have the opportunity to help us improve for sure. Collectively, it’s going to be critical that we all come back bigger, stronger, and better than last year. We have to continue to improve.”
The Knights seek to once again become NEC conference champions and Herenda believes that both Kaleb Bishop and Nadi Beceri will be wonderful additions to his improving team.
Herenda also seems excited and especially eager to play against certain teams in the Knights nonconference schedule. This is especially true of Seton Hall, which Herenda has close ties with.
“I think when you look at your schedule you’re excited about each and every game, but to open up with the Big East champion at Seton Hall on their campus is special,” said Herenda.
“I was an assistant coach there many years ago and my associate Bruce Hamburger was an assistant coach there. One of our former assistants is now an assistant at Seton Hall, so we have many common threads. Playing against Seton Hall, Rutgers, and Ohio State are all exciting games coming up. I hate to sound like a coach, but each and every game is so important. The most attractive part of our schedule is the NEC Conference Tournament which we need to qualify for and that’s the goal here. The first way to win a championship is to win a conference tournament.”
It is quite clear that Herenda has high hopes for his team this season. However, during the interview Herenda also expressed the importance of having such a great fan base.
As the Knights prepare for their first game of the regular season against the Seton Hall Pirates, Herenda urges fans to continue to show their support.
“I love our fans,” said Herenda. “Our fans are great and our student athletes are our most boisterous fans. We also have a great alumni base, so our fans are tremendous. There’s just a lot of good things to be excited about now here at Fairleigh Dickinson basketball.”
Herenda is extremely appreciative of all of the fans that come out and support the Men’s basketball team and he considers the fans a part of his team. The action against Seton Hall begins at 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 11, as Herenda and the Knights are off to yet another exciting season.