WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (WWBT) - The Forgotten Four- four college basketball programs that have been eligible for every NCAA Tournament, but have yet to make the big dance. William and Mary are on that shortlist (along with Army, St. Francis (NY) and The Citadel), but the Tribe is out to a hot start. It may be a surprise to some, but not to the guys in the locker room.
“Now that we’ve started, we’re coming to realize that we’re a good team and we can compete with anybody,” said junior guard Luke Loewe.
“It’s just 15 guys who barely knew each other a couple of months ago,” added senior forward Nathan Knight. “We’re all just enjoying playing together.”
William and Mary (13-5 overall) is out to a 5-0 start in CAA play for just the third time in program history, winning its first three conference games on the road. The Tribe also leads the country with seven road wins. First-year head coach Dane Fischer has not really focused on numbers, statistics and wins, rather core values and culture. Fischer pushes the team’s five core values (trust, hard work, communication, toughness and focus) in everything the players do.
“His ability to come in and build such strong connections so fast has just been tremendous for our entire program,” Knight said of his head coach.
“Really from day one, they’ve been excited for what we’ve been about and they’ve really embraced it," Fischer noted. “That’s a credit to them because you can have a great plan in place, but if players aren’t going to buy in, then it’s usually not going to work.”
Leading the charge for the Tribe is Knight, a 6′10″ senior forward and center who leads the nation with 14 double-doubles this season. Not only is the William and Mary big man showing his skills on the court, but he’s answering his coach’s call to reach new heights in a leadership role as well.
“I told him early on, ‘I think you’re going to have the easiest role on this team, but the hardest job,’” said Fischer of Knight. “If you embrace what that is, we’re going to have a chance to have a really good team.'”
“I love it,” said Knight of his leadership responsibility. “Just being able to have that feeling knowing that I’m helping my friends, a group of guys do things that we didn’t think were possible.”
So could this be the year that William and Mary trims the Forgotten Four to three? Fischer and the Tribe say they’ll save that discussion for March, but they also agree that they have the components and the pieces to make a championship run in the CAA.
“It’s there,” Loewe said regarding the lack of NCAA Tournament berth. “It’s been there in this program for a while. Everyone wants to make it, but we just have to continue to focus and stay our course.”
“There are a lot of factors that go into it,” added Fischer. “We’re just talking about let’s control what we can control, let’s be as good as we can possibly be, and at the end of the season let the results take care of themselves.”
William and Mary travels to Delaware for a CAA contest on Thursday night at 7:00.
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