J Taylor of Husson's men's basketball team practices with the team on Thursday, Dec. 1, at Husson University. Credit: Adam Robinson / BDN

The Husson men’s basketball team is 1-4 this season, dropping its last four contests. However, the Eagles are confident that better basketball is on the horizon.

The team won the North Atlantic Conference men’s basketball championship last year with a 57-53 win over SUNY Poly of New York state and returns many of the same players this year that led the group to a conference title.

Husson’s schedule has been difficult and its first conference game comes Saturday. It returns three top seniors, including one whose injury kept him out all season, and a former high-school star transferring from the University of Maine. The Eagles are confident they can bounce back.

Justice Kendall is back with Husson for his fifth season starting for the Eagles and recently scored his 1,000th career point. When Kendall came in as a freshman, head coach Warren Caruso “absolutely” knew the guard had a chance at the milestone.

“He has scored 1,000 points but what sticks out to us coaches is that he has a three-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio,” Caruso said. “He handles the ball and runs the offense well.”

Warren Caruso, head coach of the Husson men’s basketball team, yells out directions during a practice on Thursday, Dec. 1, at Husson University. Credit: Aam Robinson / BDN

J Thomas is often in the backcourt with Kendall. The two guards combined are averaging 19.8 points per game. Thomas acknowledged the team hasn’t started the season how it wanted but that there are signs of improvement with chemistry still coming along.

“We’re in a rocky stage right now but by the end of the season we will look back at this and be grateful for it,” Thomas said. “We need this to get back into the championship stage we were in before.”

Husson defeated Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the season opener, but then lost to the University of Maine at Fort Kent, St. Joseph’s, Lasell and most-recently Bates College on Tuesday, 82-73.

The team is trying to work in new players into the rotation, including Taylor Schildroth, who won three Class C state championships as the star player at George Stevens Academy in Blue Hill and last played at UMaine, plus freshman Eric Ahlers.

The Eagles are also working junior Scott Lewis back into the team after he missed all of last season after a July 2021 car crash required back surgery. The year before, when Husson only played 10 games due to COVID, Lewis averaged 13.5 points and 8.2 rebounds per game.

“It’s good to have him back,” Caruso said. “He’s coming along very nicely.”

Derek Collin of Husson’s men’s basketball team practices with the team on Thursday, Dec. 1, at Husson University. Credit: Adam Robinson / BDN

Lewis has played in five games this season, started two and is averaging 12.4 points per game. So far, Husson’s leader in points per game is Jeremy Moronta at 15.4.

Derek Collin, a senior on the team, said his job is to keep the team positive on the court and said he’s an extra voice for the coaches on the court. Even though he thinks this year’s Eagles team can repeat as champions, they have some work to do in responding when teams go on runs against them.

“We need to close out some of these wins and these games we came up short,” he said.

Players across the team still feel confident in this year’s Husson squad. The Eagles have their first conference game on Saturday against the University of Maine at Presque Isle before five more non-conference games.

“We put together a really good non-conference schedule by design,” Caruso said. “We have one every year. We know if we can go 7-4, 6-5, we’re playing well and right now we’re not. When you play good teams you can’t play poorly and win. It’s a learning curve.”

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Adam Robinson

Adam Robinson is a native of Auburn, Maine, and graduate of Husson University and Edward Little High School. He enjoys sports, going on runs and video games.