By Carolyn Linck, '11
Heading into his junior year, Raymond Cowels III has already seen Santa Clara basketball grow tremendously in his first two years with the Broncos. From finishing the season under .500 in his freshman season to winning 24 games and the CIT Championship in his sophomore year, Cowels believes the Broncos will only continue to improve in the upcoming 2011-12 campaign.
"I've seen an incredible amount of growth in my time here. It's important now for us not to settle on the success we've had, " said Cowels. "We need to keep pushing ourselves and continue to grow off of our wins."
Indeed, Cowels and the rest of the Broncos are hoping to use their 2011 CIT Championship as a stepping-stone to greater success next season.
"Ending our season on a winning note with the CIT title has given us a lot of momentum going into next year," explained Cowels. "We've gotten more recognition nationally because of it, but it has also raised others and our own expectations for our team."
Cowels says the Broncos are hoping to rise to these expectations and ultimately compete for the West Coast Conference title and make it to the NCAA Tournament.
"We know these are lofty goals, but we think that with the experience we have coming back and the talent of the freshmen class coming in that we can do it," said Cowels. "The morale on the team is the highest it's been since I've been here, and I think we have a lot of confidence and momentum moving forward."
Cowels admits, however, that replacing the four seniors, Ben Dowdell, Michael Santos, Nate Mensah and Troy Payne, will be difficult.
"It's tough losing seniors, especially this class with guys like Troy and Ben giving us so much defense and energy on the court," said Cowels. "But I can already see the new juniors and seniors stepping up to take on larger leadership roles. We know more responsibility falls on us now, and we're ready for it."
This offseason Cowels will be leading by example, spending the majority of his summer in Santa Clara working out every day to improve his game. He says he's particularly focusing on his ball-handling skills and rebounding.
"I'm just trying to get stronger in the weight room and dribble the ball whenever I can," said Cowels. "Next season I want to lead the guards in rebounds, have a higher shooting percentage and become a real defensive stopper."
Cowels is also looking forward to traveling to Vancouver, Canada, with the rest of the Broncos to play in a tournament during Labor Day (Sept. 5-10).
"Playing in Vancouver will be fun," said Cowels. "It'll be a different kind of competition than we are used to, so that's good. I also think it will be a great way for us to get a jump on the season and build chemistry with the freshmen."
Cowels said beating Gonzaga by 14 points at home on Jan. 20 and USF during the CIT Tournament on March 22 have been the highlights of his SCU career thus far. He hopes the next season of Bronco basketball will be filled with more games like this.
"Those two games were some of the best basketball games I've ever been a part of," shared Cowels. "I hope we can play in more exciting games like that and just continue to move forward as a program. We want to become one the big time mid-major schools."