By RICK PETERSON
Washburn University's 14-15 men's basketball record a year ago wasn't necessarily a bad season, particularly considering who the Ichabods lost off their NCAA Tournament team from 2021-2022.
But seven-year Ichabod coach Brett Ballard makes no bones about the fact that a repeat of that won't be acceptable at Washburn moving forward.
"It humbles you,'' said Ballard, 118-64 at Washburn with four NCAA Tournament appearances. "As a coach you've got to learn from it and we've got to be better. It's just not our standard here and not the expectations that I have or anybody has for this program.''
"Our players understand that and there's no question in my mind that we'll take a big step this year.''
Fortunately for WU, the Ichabods seemingly have the talent in place to make that happen.
"We return about 70 percent of our scoring and about 80 percent of our rebounding and return a lot of guys that played big minutes last year,'' Ballard said. "I thought we showed some flashes of being really good at times last year, especially at home. We were good at home, not as good on the road.
"Part of that was just the youth we were playing and the league is really, really good. But this year, with those guys coming back, we're looking for much more consistency and being tough enough to be able to win at home but also be able to go on the road and get big wins, too. Our schedule's going to be brutal again, but that's not an excuse. We've got good players. I really like the pieces that we've got.''
Washburn returns three starters including 6-foot-8 junior Andrew Orr, a third-team All-MIAA pick who averaged 13.9 points and 5.9 rebounds a year ago.
Shorter, a 6-5 guard, could also challenge for playing time early.
"Brayden Shorter out of our freshman class has shown the most consistency so far,'' Ballard said. "He's from Springfield (Mo.) and played for a very good high school program at Kickapoo. He's an athletic guard who can shoot it, is tough and I would expect him to be in the mix to get some solid minutes early in the year.''
Washburn will open its 2023-24 season at the Central Regional Challenge in historic Municipal Auditorium on Nov. 11, facing Sioux Falls, followed by Minnesota State Moorhead the following day.
The Ichabods will play their home-opener in Lee Arena on Nov. 18 against Rockhurst.