The University of Detroit Mercy men’s basketball team is coming up. The Titans have an excellent 7-2 (2-0 in conference) record. The 7-2 mark matches the 1998-99 campaign start, as well as its win total last year. The Titans’ 2-0 mark in the league also equaled their victory total from last season in conference play.
After a horrendous 2008-09 season, second-year coach Ray McCallum has the Titans flexing their collective muscles.
One person who is in the forefront of the Titan’s surge is former Southeastern High player Thomas Kennedy. The 6-foot-7 forward, who led the team in scoring last year, is averaging a solid 11 points per game and is shooting over .500 percent from the field.
“We have been challenging Thomas,” McCallum said, “and he has responded over the past few games with an outstanding effort. When he is focused he has a tremendous upside and an excellent motor.”
Added Xavier Keeling: “Thomas has the best stamina of anybody on the team. We make a good team at the forward position, because we communicate with each other and we are unselfish.”
It is amazing in one year how the expectations of this tem have elevated.
“We believe we have the team to finish at the top of the conference,” Kennedy said. “We have a lot of guys that can compete. We just have to keep working together and I feel we will surprise people.”
The Titans have four players scoring in double figures: Eli Homan leads the way at 14.4; Keeling is next at 13.4; Chase Simon follows at 12.7; and Kennedy puts up 11.3 points per game.
“We have a lot of guys that can put the ball in the basket,” McCallum noted, “but the ball movement is what takes us to another level. We are developing guys that have versatile skills, put that with team discipline and we have a group of guys that can compete in the Horizon Conference.”
Whatever McCallum has implanted in his players, they all believe they are good enough to compete at the highest level. A major test will come this weekend as the Titans will travel to Ann Arbor to face the University of Michigan.
Kennedy said he has never felt better about a team, no matter that he has won a National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) title in 2008 at Mott College.
“There is something special going on with this team,” Kennedy said. “We all like each other and we are willing to sacrifice for the good of the team.”
Added McCallum: “We have a very tough and competitive group and along the way we are figuring out who can do what. Remember we have a new program. We are trying to build trust with each other, but the best thing about this team is that you can not teach heart, but these guys have heart and more.”
All of Kennedy’s teammates agree. He said his strength as a player is his ability to shoot the mid-range shot, finishing around that basket and just hustling. He wants to take his game to another level by improving his ball handling skills and creativity off the dribble.
Who can deny that UDM is on the up swing after its victory over Cleveland State at Calihan Hall, a team that had a five game winning streak against the Titans, and had won the conference title last year, as well as, produce NCAA 2009 Tournament’s biggest upset.
“This team is a lot better than last year,” Kennedy said. “We will surprise a lot of people with our talent and effort this year.”
Kennedy said his time at Southeastern in the PSL prepared him well for the rigors of college basketball: “The competition in the PSL in Detroit was supreme. The League took me to a higher level. I had to step up just so I would not get embarrassed.”
Kennedy, McCallum and the Titans are indeed taking their game to another level and they will be a force to be dealt with on the 2009-10 NCAA basketball playground.
Leland Stein can be heard on 107.5 every Sunday from 11 p.m. to midnight. He can be reached at email@example.com.