As the temperature cools down, the MSU Denver Roadrunners look to heat up the men’s basketball season with a new head coach, a lot of firepower from leaders and a program legacy.
Head coach Michael Bahl made his debut against the reigning NCAA DII basketball champions, the Tarleton State University Texans. Bahl plans to implement the new style of basketball he has been coaching so far. The Roadrunners started the season last weekend against the Texans and Angelo State University Rams in the Texan Tip-Off Classic. MSU Denver came out winless in the tournament, but both teams are NCAA Tournament contenders. The Roadrunners will continue a tough opening schedule on the road, but that doesn’t make Bahl flinch.
“We got to take it one day at a time,” Bahl said. “Our first four games are on the road against NCAA Tournament teams. We have a tough road ahead of us, but it’s sustaining the course and believing in our process and getting the guys to buy in to our system and style.”
Cameron Williams, one of four returning seniors on the team, has bought into the system. He is excited to be coached under this format with the new strategies Bahl has implemented.
“The up-tempo, he has a lot of confidence for a first year,” Williams said of Bahl. “You couldn’t tell it’s his first year. He’s coaching like he’s been doing it for 10 years.”
Williams’ role is to be a leader and help teach the younger athletes on the team how to be a Roadrunner basketball player. He averaged just over 27 points per game in his first season at MSU Denver last year, and is ready to be a mentor.
“Just go hard, put in the extra work and you have to get better,” said Williams. “They’re going to be seniors in the future and they’ll have younger ones looking up to them. So just go hard, and fake it ‘til you make it.”
Marcus Jefferson, a true freshman, is one of the teammates that are trying to “make it.” He came to MSU Denver because of some wise words from his brother, who played for the Roadrunners from 2010-14.
“I’ve known about the Roadrunner franchise for a long time,” Jefferson said. “My brother went here and I’m happy to carry on his legacy.”
Back in the 2013-14 season, the Roadrunners went 30-2 overall and were undefeated at home. Marcus Jefferson’s brother, Brandon, was a central figure on the Elite Eight-bound team, earning a National Association of Basketball Coaches national player of the year award and first-team All-America honors. Even though the younger Jefferson is one of the youngest players on the team, he already realizes how good of a coach Bahl is.
“I like his play style,” Jefferson said. “I like his coaching ability, he’s a player’s coach and I think he’s good for the franchise.”
Bahl talked about how much change he wants to make, now that he is the one taking the reins. Last season, he saw the Roadrunners finish the season 17-13 overall, with a conference record just above .500 at 12-10. MSU Denver won eight of their 14 home games. Now, Bahl wants to emphasize success on their home court.
“We have to take care of business at home,” Bahl said. “When we were really good, we didn’t lose home games. That’s one thing we pride ourselves on, is when people come to our place, we don’t lose at home. Last year at home, we weren’t the best, and that needs to change.”
Roadrunners can run up to 20 mph in the wild, but this basketball team will be looking to speed by the competition in the RMAC and kicking up dust on their way to victory.