QUINCY -- During pick-up games throughout the fall, the Quincy University men's basketball players tried to make one thing abundantly clear.
No one takes plays off.
"There were times a guy might get past somebody a little too easy," junior forward Marcus Hinton said. "That can't fly in a game. We know we're going to have to work on it in practice."
For nearly a month now, the Hawks have made defensive accountability a priroity. It remains at the top of the list.
"The challenge for them is defensively," first-year QU coach Ryan Hellenthal said. "They have to adapt to my mindset and understand we're going to guard first and play on that end every single possession. We can't take plays off. That's going to be the challenge for this group initially. They have to raise the level defensively."
It's the only way to get back to a championship level.
One of the greatest seasons ended with 25 victories, an NCAA Tournament appearance, a Great Lakes Valley Conference North Division title and three of the Hawks' six seniors signing to play professionally overseas. It also brought the Marty Bell coaching era to an end, as he retired in August after 14 seasons on the QU bench.
So leading the reloading project is Hellenthal, a Quincy native who spent last season as Bell's top assistant. He inherited a roster with only two players who saw any significant time last season and a recruiting class filled with junior college guards.
It's requiring him to be patient, persuasive and persistent all at the same time.
"Everyone who was along for that ride last year understands it wasn't an overnight process," Hellenthal said. "Those guys had worked three, four, five years to get to that level.
"Our guys understand the expectation but realize it's going to take a lot of work to get there."
The work began with building unity the day they returned to campus.
"There's a lot of new faces, so we have to get that established and everyone comfortable right away," senior swingman Bobby Frasco said. "The camaraderie is there. The team chemsitry is there, which is a good thing."
Even first-year QU assistant coach Tim Bergstrasser felt it.
"I liked the energy from the day I first got here," said Bergstrasser, who joined the staff in September after serving three seasons on the Minnesota State-Moorhead staff. "It's contagious."
The Hawks will have to pour that energy into developing an attack.
Graduation took away six of the top seven scorers, leaving only Hinton, who averaged 8.4 points and 4.2 rebounds off the bench. He played in all 32 games, averaging 18.3 minutes and showcased the ability to score inside and out.
Hinton moves into the starting lineup this season and becomes one of the first options offensively.
"He has to play big, play smart and play determined," Hellenthal said. "He needs to be a presence for us."
Hinton understands his new role and the expectations that come with it.
"You go in and work hard and give everything you have," he said. "You can't take a play off. Ever."
He's convinced the newcomers understand that, too.
The Hawks brought in three junior college guards -- Demetrius Hunter from North Central Missouri College, Jah-Kobe Womack from Allen County Community College and Robert DeVries from Lake Land College -- to bolster the backcourt. Team them with redshirt freshman guard Ryan Briscoe and Hellenthal believes the Hawks have the right mix to compete.
More importantly, the Hawks expect their new teammates to raise their level of play, too.
"It's not easy, because they don't have the same experience as you," Hinton said. "But they have different experiences than what we have. They've been in game situations where they had to step up and make big plays. I feel they know what time it is, and when it's time to step up, they're going to step up."
The biggest concern for the Hawks lies in the frontcourt. Redshirt freshman forward Tanner Stuckman, a Quincy Notre Dame graduate, spent his entire offseason working with Evan McGaughey, an All-GLVC forward who is now playing professionally in Germany, and others in order to have a chance to play.
"We had to take it upon ourselves to become better in the weight room and on the floor," Stuckman said. "We still need to take more steps to get to where we want to go. I'm really proud of what we've accomplished so far, and I'm excited to see what we can do in the future."
The hope is that future involves more championship moments.
"All of us are here to win," Frasco said. "That's our priority. That's our mindset. So we all have that same goal."
Date Opponent Time
Nov. 10 Ferris State^ 4:30 p.m.
Nov. 11 Grand Valley State^ 6:30 p.m.
Nov. 15 Upper Iowa 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 18 at Missouri Western 3:15 p.m.
Nov. 22 at Illinois State$ TBA
Nov. 24 Illinois College 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 30 at Rockhurst* 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 2 at William Jewell* 3:15 p.m.
Dec. 7 Drury* 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 9 Hannibal-LaGrange 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 16 Missouri Southern State& 3:15 p.m.
Dec. 17 Ohio Valley& 3:15 p.m.
Dec. 31 MacMurray 3:15 p.m.
Jan. 4 at Indianapolis* 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 6 Maryville* 3:15 p.m.
Jan. 13 Illinois-Springfield* 3:15 p.m.
Jan. 15 at Maryville* 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 18 at McKendree* 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 20 Missouri-St. Louis* 3:15 p.m.
Jan. 25 Missouri S&T* 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 27 Lewis* 3:15 p.m.
Feb. 1 at Bellarmine* 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 3 at Southern Indiana* 3:15 p.m.
Feb. 8 Wisconsin-Parkside* 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 10 Truman State* 3:15 p.m.
Feb. 15 at Illinois-Springfield* 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 22 at Missouri-St. Louis* 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 24 McKendree* 3:15 p.m.
^ GLVC/GLIAC Challenge in Big Rapids, Mich.
& QU Subway Holiday Classic
* Great Lakes Valley Conference
No. Name Hgt. Year Hometown
1 Jah-Kobe Womack 6-3 Jr. St. Louis, Mo.
2 Ryan Briscoe 5-10 Fr. St. Charles, Mo.
3 Bobby Frasco 6-3 Sr. Mt. Prospect, Ill.
10 Robby Dosier 6-4 Jr. Carbondale, Ill.
11 Demetrius Houston 6-2 Jr. Birmingham, Ala.
12 Joey Liem 6-5 Jr. Rasmalen, Ned.
14 Robert DeVries 6-2 So. Forreston, Ill.
15 Trevor Meny 6-0 So. Palmyra, Mo.
22 Justin Bottorff 6-7 Fr. Quincy, Ill.
23 De'Andre Alexander 6-0 Jr. Springfield, Ill.
24 Tanner Stuckman 6-9 Fr. Quincy, Ill.
30 Lucas Zurcher 6-2 Fr. Nappanee, Ind.
33 Marcus Hinton 6-7 Jr. Florissant, Mo.
34 Marsalis Johnson 6-8 Jr. North Hills, Calif.
44 Paulo Camilo 6-7 Jr. Campinas, Sau Paulo, Br.