On Feb. 29, the loss against Brandeis University concluded a disappointing 8-17 season for the men’s basketball team. The team’s struggles were similar to last season, as their 1-13 record in the University Athletic Association outshined their 7-4 record against non-conference opponents. In the UAA, NYU ranked last in points scored and assists, second to last in points allowed and steals and their opponents outscored NYU by 6.3 points per game.
“I think everybody’s upset,” SPS senior and co-captain Jimmy Martinelli said. “Nobody’s quit, nobody’s shown a lack of effort. We have been in most of these games. It’s just we haven’t been able to pull it out in the end.”
Martinelli came in as a part of a 10-men recruiting class during his first-year. Four years later, he leaves as the only player left from the class.
“There were a lot of moving pieces, but the core group that came to every workout was always working their hardest in practice, trying their best in the games,” Martinelli said. “That core group that we have, we have an unbreakable bond. I haven’t felt that in years past.”
Martinelli and the team believe their 8-17 record is not representative of their talent; according to him, there certainly were games that could have ended in wins if a couple of possessions did not go awry. Their first loss against Brandeis was a one-point game with two minutes to go. They outplayed Washington University in St. Louis, who is one of the best teams in their conference, 36-26 in the first half only to lose by three.
The team has also suffered from injuries to key players which have depleted their backcourt and forced players to play out of position. The team’s two point guards, SPS first-year Ephraim Reed and CAS junior Seny Andreev, both suffered season-ending injuries in the second and the sixth games of the season respectively. These injuries exhausted the Violets’ capabilities — which led to a physical disadvantage against their opponents.
“We haven’t had an opportunity, over the last three to four weeks, to even have 10 healthy bodies in practice,” Head Coach Dagan Nelson. “[That] makes it very difficult, from a competitive standpoint and from a physicality standpoint, to get guys used to getting hit and getting grabbed and getting slapped like they do in a game.”
For the healthy players, hearing of yet another teammate’s injury almost became normal as the team’s roster dwindled from 18 players to nine.
“It was tough to be in that scenario where you’ve lost so many guys that it doesn’t feel strange to lose another one,” Stern sophomore Cade Hoppe said.
Even though their record might not suggest so, the team is optimistic about their potential for next season. Coach Nelson expects CAS junior and co-captain Bobby Hawkinson, who was recovering from mono as the season went underway, to continue on his improved performance from the second half of the season into the next season. Others assigned to unfamiliar roles and positions because of injuries have shown they can step up when needed.
For example, SPS junior Jaden Narwal, who had missed the 2018-19 season from an ACL tear, stepped in as point guard upon injuries to Andreev and Reed, assuming more offensive and defensive duties.
“I think that [Narwal] has done a really good job being the guy who every game has the toughest matchup,” Hawkinson said. “I don’t think coming into the season anyone would have thought he would have been the guy matched up on the other team’s best players.”
While the returning players can look forward to improving upon the team’s record next season, Martinelli, who ended his career with the loss against Brandies, admits he would have liked to end his NYU career on a higher note. However, their record does not dictate how he will look back upon this season.
“I wish that we could have won a couple more games,” Martinelli said. “But even though we didn’t, I still think that the most important thing is the relationships that I’ve established.”
A version of this article appears in the Monday, Mar. 2, 2020, print edition. Email Kevin Ryu at [email protected]