Lake Forest College's men's basketball team hopes this is more than just a breakout regular season.
After posting a 20-3 record overall, 16-2 league mark to claim its first Midwest Conference title since the 1999-2000 season, the Foresters host the conference tournament, which opens this evening (Feb. 24) at Lake Forest College.
The Foresters faces Carroll at 5 tonight (Feb. 24) and St. Norbert tackles Grinnell at 7:30 p.m. Friday's winners meet at 3 p.m. Saturday with an NCAA Tournament berth at stake. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for kids in grades 1-12. Kids under age 6 are admitted free.
Just a year ago, Lake Forest College finished just barely over .500 (12-11). Three years ago, the record was 7-16. Since the school began competing in basketball in 1905, the Foresters have posted just 35 winning seasons (the college did not field a team for four seasons during World War I, and two years during World War II).
They have never captured the conference tournament or earned an NCAA bid.
That's what makes this year so special, and why Lake Forest College senior Nate Bateman, who graduated from Lake Forest Academy, hopes there is more to come. The 6-foot-4 forward has done his part, scoring 10.6 points and grabbing 5.3 rebounds per game.
In a question-answer with the college newspaper, Stentor, and managing editor Ashton Hartman earlier this month, Bateman talked about what it took to reach this point of success.
- Stentor: At the beginning of the season, what were your initial thoughts about how the season may turn out?
Bateman: We have had very high hopes for the team since we did not lose any players from last year because we had no seniors. So coming in the season, we felt pretty good about the chemistry this group has together."
- Stentor: Was there any concern about how injuries would affect the success of the team?
Bateman: We have had several injuries in the beginning of the year, including a major injury to Brad (Johnstin) in our second exhibition game. We went from a team of about 25 to I think 17 guys.
- Stentor: Were you aware of the historical record of a winning streak (15 straight this season) before the season? If so, what was your reaction then compared to now.
Bateman: January 24, 2012, was the first time I had heard about the records, so I had no idea. We have set no goals, which leaves our possibilities to achieve limitless.
- Stentor: Did you expect to hit a winning streak like this?
Bateman: Our whole modo has been getting to 1-0. This means that we are taking each day, a game at a time. We hardly ever talk about our record, I haven't been keeping track so most of the time people ask me what our record is and U don't know the answer."
- Stentor: What do you think are the factors contributing to your team's success so far?
Bateman: I think the most important factor of our success is that we are a veteran team that knows what disappointment feels like. We have seven seniors that know what regret feels like and don’t want to have any in our final season. We also have had numerous underclassmen step up and become vital members of this team's success.
- Stentor: Is there anything you believe tat makes the team unique?
Bateman: I thin the No. 1 thing is the bond we have as a team. Also, we are also very hungry to do what is needed for success to happen."
- Stentor: What do you think Coach Chris Conger has done to contribute to this?
Bateman: Coach Conger has kept the team very focused and well prepared for the tasks at hand. Our whole coaching staff has done an amazing job preparing for each up and coming challenge."
- Stentor: When you were a freshman, did you ever expect this to happen?
Bateman: We felt like we had a special class but we knew after that first year of a record well blow .500 that we had a lot of work ahead if we wanted to do something special."
- Stentor: If you could give any piece of advice about how to achieve greatness, what would it be?
Bateman: Work, work, work and when you're tired, it's time to go to practice."