Nobody knows what this new blend of ballers is capable of just yet.
Thus far we’ve gotten glimpses of the Blazers’ prosperous potential though a lousy (2-5) conference record could make you think otherwise.
“We have to continue to get better and play well in February,” Head Coach Mike Helfner told me.
And he’s completely right or the early hype (fueled by a 9-1 start to the season) will seem more of a fluke than a surefire beginning.
Helfner’s mishmash squad has a chance to show why they deserve to be mentioned as one of the top teams in the Gulf South Conference next month.
VSU gets a second opportunity to redeem themselves from tough losses against conference foes Shorter, #9 Alabama-Huntsville, West Georgia, North Alabama and most recently West Florida.
Since this is the last time the Blazers will get a shot at these teams again until the post-season; this makes February the most important stretch of the regular season.
The most convincing loss was to (then No.3 ranked) UAH on Jan. 3 to hand the Blazers its first loss at home in the P.E. Complex.
Practically an entirely new team from last season, VSU managed to come three points shy of beating the reigning conference champs.
You know what that tells me?
Talent isn’t an issue.
In fact, the Blazers have the highest scoring offense complimented with the most blocks in the conference.
There have been a handful of moments where it’s safe to say VSU has the strongest backcourt in the GSC also unfortunately these moments have come during non-conference games.
With all five losses falling to conference teams should be an eye-opener that lack of team chemistry is evident against rival teams whom have a priceless camaraderie thanks to playing with each other for years.
Hopefully, the GSC learning curve is over or the downfall of this season could linger into next month.
With the league arguable the most balanced it’s been in a several seasons, the curve may be far from finished. We shall see.
Outside of the lone returner Josh Sparks, no one else on the roster is used to the rigor of the GSC particularly facing these teams on the road.
From a leadership aspect, Sparks needs to spread his experiences with his teammates to help avoid a losing skid during the upcoming heart of the schedule.
Luckily,these next games will be played at home,where the Blazers hold a respectable 7-2 record.
Comradeship is vital to turn recent woes to success for the rest of the season.
Time is usually the best way to build togetherness but after all they don’t have much of that this late in the season.
The coaching staff can only do so much; team chemistry isn’t something you can work on at practice or draw up on a clipboard during a timeout.
The Blazers must take it amongst themselves to pressingly get acclimated with each other playing styles and tendencies.
If not fans can start looking toward next season; one that won’t include the team’s most dynamic players in seniors Sparks and Witchita State transfer James Anacreon.
Therefore, the time is now.
Granted VSU could make a run in the GSC tournament in March regardless of the next month’s outcome however that is the same wishful thinking last season’s team had.
Christian Brothers routed VSU in the quarterfinals of the GSC tournament last spring.
Trust me it’s more beneficial to find a winning formula to beat these teams now than to cross your fingers in the post-season.
The 2009-2010 team that reached the Elite Eight before losing, won the GSC and did so after crushing their opponents during the regular season.
While Helfner says that acomplished team resembles this year’s bunch, VSU currently sits in seventh place in the GSC.
“I think that’s going to be our challenge. Can we get better as the year goes on and I think we can,” Coach Helfer said.
I think so too.
Again, the time is now though. Tick tock.
This web exclusive is brought to you by Sports Editor Eric Jackson.