Stills from one o fthe games at the beginning of the basketball season, for the St. Thomas basketball team, 2022. (Daniel Salas/AQ)

The loss at the Atlantic College Athletic Association (ACAA) finals last season means the St. Thomas University men’s basketball team is hungry to get back to the court and overcome their defeat. 

“I’m starving for it. Anything other than a championship is a failed mission,” said Gayo Isaya, a third-year player on the team.

The Tommies are 4-2 to start the 2022-23 season in the ACAA. They’ve beat Mount Allison University, the University of New Brunswick in Saint John, the University of King’s College and Mount Saint Vincent University, with the first three coming from triple-digit wins.

The team was lights out in the first half of the game versus defending champs MSVU. They slowed up in the second, allowing their opponent to come back in the game on Nov. 13. 

Tanner Hoyt, who transferred to the Tommies from UNBSJ, said his team didn’t know what to say or what to fix after the half. 

“It seemed like we had nothing to fix to be honest. So I think that’s one of the reasons why we played so badly in the second half,” said Hoyt. 

Even though they won the game, Hoyt said having those experiences early in the season is good, noting that it’s something players can fix moving forward. 

STU’s game against Crandall University on Nov. 20 saw the Tommies take their first loss of the season, 102-95. This was the team’s first time allowing more than 100 points to be scored against them and puts their away record at 0-1. 

Head coach John Hickey preached defence in the practices following this loss and the players understood. 

Hickey emphasized the importance of giving instructions to players and having a good group of coaches to figure out what is working and what isn’t. 

Since Hickey and his staff took over during the 2019-20 season, the team has enjoyed success in the regular season and playoffs, prompting a playoff finals berth last season, where they ultimately lost to MSVU. 

When asked how his newly-formed staff has managed to turn the team into contenders, Hickey said “sometimes people just need a different voice.”

He said his coaches are second to none and the work they do on and off the court is what sets his team up for success.

Trust is a big factor for his method of coaching, but he recognizes it doesn’t happen overnight.

“You can question my method, don’t ever question my motive,” said Hickey.

In the pre-season, Hoyt said the team was struggling on the court.

Then the team had a meeting. 

“The players met up after a loss and talked about things that we thought that we could do better. That can really help a team,” said Hoyt.

After the talk, the team went 3-0 to set themselves up in a good position for the regular season. 

The Tommies were on a two-game losing streak, but with their latest win against the University of King’s College on Nov. 27 in Halifax, they improve to 5-2 on the season and sit second in wins in the ACAA.

The Tommies have one more game to play before winter break and expect “nothing less than a championship this season,” said Isaya.