Photo Cred: Ohio Athletics

2016 Men’s Basketball Turnaround

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With just 10 wins last season, the Saul Phillips era did not exactly start off with a boom, but that’s no secret. Phillips himself does not shy away from it. Following Ohio’s win over Ball State January 9, the coach even made a joking remark congratulating himself for back-to-back 10-win seasons.

Phillips is aware that the expectations for the men’s basketball team in Athens are reasonably high, and after all, with four 20-win seasons in five years, it’s hard for them not to be high. Factor in that Phillips led North Dakota State, a program smaller than Ohio and with less historical success than, Ohio to two NCAA Tournament appearances in seven years, and you have a dangerous recipe for a coach inheriting a roster that had been pieced together by two different coaches.

Now that Phillips has had an opportunity to work with the team for a full year and get his own recruiting classes into the program, his vision for the program is starting to take shape. The team has already grabbed four wins in conference play, which is just one victory shy of the team’s total from all of last season.

“It’s like night and day.” It’s not long, but Khari Harley’s description of the 2015-16 season compared to the 2014-15 season is telling. Things are moving in the right direction for this team.

The wins speak for themselves, but what’s most noticeable about this team is that it gets along. Now, it might seem like a no-brainer for teammates to like each other, but at times, issues like who’s getting the most minutes and the most shots can get in the way.

“They care about each other, and they hang out together all the time,” Phillips explains. “It helps when you have guys looking out for each other.”

With a group of talented freshmen and two experienced transfers in Jaaron Simmons and Kenny Kaminski now on the floor for Ohio, that chemistry was the major missing piece for Ohio. Now that the Bobcats have it, though, their ceiling is pretty high.

“I believe we can win the MAC,” Halrey says. “I believe that we have the pieces right now to win the conference and get to the NCAA Tournament, so I believe the sky’s the limit right now.”