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Wesleyan head men’s basketball coach Gerry McDowell, center, hangs out near the hoops with varsity players Eric Winters '08, left, and Jim Shepherd '07. McDowell has coached the team for 10 years.
 
Posted 01.17.06

Hoop Hopes: Coach Celebrates 10th Year Leading Wesleyan's Basketball Team

Q: When did you become the head men’s basketball coach at Wesleyan, Gerry?

A: I began coaching here in 1996, so this my 10th year at Wesleyan.

Q: I understand you entered the season with a 113-103 record. Is it true you had a streak of seven consecutive winning seasons?

A: Yes, it is true. However, our performance in the next game and our growth as a team this season is all that really matters.

Q: Can you briefly sum up the season so far?

A: We are evolving into a very good defensive team. Our success will depend on maintaining a high level of defensive execution and improving our defensive rebounding. NESCAC is a very strong conference and every opponent will provide a big challenge as well as an excellent opportunity to make some noise in the conference.

Q: When does the NESCAC tournament begin?

A: This year the tournament begins on February 18 with the top eight teams competing on that day.

Q: Prior to Wesleyan, where did you coach?

A: I began my teaching and coaching career on Cape Cod at Barnstable High School. I coached at the freshman, junior varsity and varsity levels and learned how to teach the game. I gained experience at the college level at Colby College as an assistant coach to Dick Whitmore. His son, Richard Whitmore, is Wesleyan’s facilities manager in our Athletic Department.

Q: When did you decide to go into coaching?

A: My student-teaching experience while I was at Colby led me into a 12-year teaching stint at Barnstable High. I learned that I enjoyed the challenge of motivating young people in the classroom. Ultimately, my desire to motivate players who are passionate about basketball led to a move to the college level.

Q: What type of training methods do you use for your players?

A: The biggest adjustment a player has to make is adapting to the physical nature of college basketball. A commitment to a weight program is a must. In order to become an effective player he must be able to play through the physical contact that is part of the game.

Q: What are you looking for in a player when recruiting?

A: A student athlete must show that he has the ability to succeed academically. Wesleyan must be appealing to him for a lot more than simply basketball. After that, I am looking for mentally strong and physically tough players. They must be resilient in order to handle the challenges of a season. A player must demonstrate that he possesses and understanding of team play in order to be a candidate for Wesleyan basketball.

Q: When does practice begin and how do you prepare the athletes for games?

A: All winter sports teams begin practicing on November 1. We begin the season by working on conditioning, drilling the fundamentals of the game and implementing our offensive and defensive approach. Developing a familiarity of each opponent is vital and adjustments to our approach are introduced and drilled in the days leading up to each game.

Q: Who are your key players this year, and what are your general thoughts on the team overall?

A: This year’s captain is Jared Ashe ’07. He is an all-conference caliber guard who is extremely competitive player and a great leader.

Q: Do your student athletes participate in other sports?

A: There are six two-sport athletes on our team. Jared is an All-NESCAC performer on the soccer team. Blake Curry ’07, Mike Raymond ’08 and Steve Tolbert ’09 are members of the football team. Sam Grover ’08 competed in the triple jump at nationals last year as a freshman. Jon Sargent ’09 will pitch for the baseball team in the spring.

Q: What is the most rewarding factor about being a Cardinal coach?

A: The opportunity to represent Wesleyan University is rewarding and leading a group of athletes who take pride in Wesleyan is truly a unique experience.

Q: As an adjunct professor of physical education, what sports-related classes do you teach at Wesleyan?

A: Introductory and Beginning Tennis are my physical education assignments. It’s a lot of fun meeting and coaching students in a life-long activity like tennis.

Q: Tell me about the Cardinal Hoop Clinic.

A: The Cardinal Hoop Clinic is a basketball camp for boys and girls from age 8-15. Members of the men and women’s basketball team are vital to the success of the clinic. They serve as coaches and teach the fundamentals of the game, conduct drills and contests that reinforce the skills involved in basketball and serve as role models for the campers. This summer the Clinic will run from June 26-30. Anyone who is interested should call me at 860-685-2918.

 
By Olivia Bartlett, The Wesleyan Connection editor