A single shared philosophy kept the Quincy University men's basketball players sane last winter when the pursuit of an NCAA Tournament berth and the grind of a long season made them want to get away from the game.
The Hawks found their getaway from the gym at the Casino Lanes, just a few blocks from campus. They created the 200-pin club and discovered common ground for a diverse group. Bowling generated the camaraderie necessary to become one of the most successful teams in program history.
But a new year means new players and a need for a new identity.
So say goodbye to the idea bowlers bowl. The Hawks are going live this winter with NBA 2K.
"It still involves basketball, but video games is kind of our getaway where we can just relax and talk as a team," redshirt freshman point guard Ryan Briscoe said.
The Hawks officially begin practice Sunday and launch the Ryan Hellenthal coaching era. Changes in the coaching staff -- Marty Bell resigned in August, Hellenthal was promoted to head coach and former player Von Washington III has returned as an assistant coach -- have accompanied an overhaul of the roster.
Seven players remain from the 2016-17 roster, and only two of them played in more than 13 games last season. Three redshirted and two are still awaiting their collegiate debut. Five junior college transfers were added through recruiting, as well as freshman forward Justin Bottorff, the Quincy Notre Dame product.
"I really wasn't sure coming in how we would form as one," junior guard Robby Dosier said during the team's media day this week. "To be honest with you, we don't have a sole leader. We lost seven of them last year. It's really cool how we just came together as one really quickly. That goes for the coaching staff as well.
"Program-wide, coming together, that's been the most encouraging for me."
It's created an up-beat and energetic atmosphere as the season gets ready to unfold. The Hawks went through more than a month of individual workouts, pick-up games and weight lifting to get themselves prepared for this moment.
Along the way, they've discovered some common ground, not just an appreciation and aptitude for video games.
"The team camaraderie is there. The chemistry is there, which is a good thing," senior swingman Bobby Frasco said. "We're jokesters. We have serious guys. At the end of the day, we all like each other."
It's leading to better interaction away from the game.
"We're starting to hang out off the court a lot more," sophomore guard Trevor Meny said. "Getting to know guys on and off the court is big. Last year, chemistry was so big. We went everywhere together, bowling and that kind of stuff."
It forged a bond that exists today even though those players are now living and playing on different continents.
That's the kind of team this group wants to become.
"It definitely gets you fired up to go out and make a name for yourself and your team after seeing what the guys in front of you did," Briscoe said. "You want to make sure you continue that kind of culture and that kind of winning attitude."
Finding a way to pull everyone together is a good start.
"You have to get to know each other and that's going to help you out on the court," Briscoe said.
That's why a gaming system needs to accompany the Hawks on the road this season.
"Hopefully that'll happen," Briscoe said.