The Azusa Pacific men’s basketball team is hopeful about their upcoming season. After winning the NCAA Division II PacWest title last season, the team’s ultimate goal for this season is to defend that title and work toward another conference championship.

The team started the season 1-2 this year by playing in the Division II Tip-Off Classic tournament, defeating Texas A&M International, but losing to West Texas A&M and MSU Denver.

“It’s a great chance to go out and see where we’re at. We haven’t had a lot of practice time before [the tournament], so especially for the young guys, I would say this is a baptism by fire of what college basketball is going to look like. It’s a great honor to be a part of it, and it’s a great opportunity for us,” Leslie said.

Last season, the APU team scored a total of 2,554 points with a per-game point average of 78.9. Opponents scored a combined total of 2,423 points with a per-game average of 75.7 points. As far as shots, the team made 910 out of its attempted 1,948, while opponents made 853 out of an attempted 2,005. The team had a total of 1,258 rebounds, 465 assists, 451 turnovers and 178 steals.

Knowing the statistics from last season, Leslie is focused on ensuring that the team remains PacWest champions, and hopefully, can make a run for the NCAA Championship.

“We had a pretty good year last year. We would like to see what we can do to defend our title—that would be the goal for the year,” Leslie said.

Junior forward Corey Langerveld is one of the leaders on the team and knows that there is always room for improvement both personally and as a group. He said he is excited about what this season is going to look like with new players in the mix.

“The key for us is working through the early pains of not being used to playing with each other. Personally for me, I think the biggest thing is confidence. I need to be confident and secure in the work that I’ve put in and start to trust all the time I’ve put in,” Langerveld said.

Junior forward Petar Kutlesic is another leader of the team. While he said he doesn’t want to jinx anything, he is definitely confident in what this season holds for the team.

“Going into this year I’m really excited because I think the team has more chemistry and the new guys that came in are really trying their best to learn all the new stuff,” Kutlesic said. “Personally, I think I’m more experienced and more comfortable with the position of being one of the leaders.”

While the team has the Division II Tip-Off Classic to start the season, the ultimate goal is to do well in the NCAA tournament and throughout the season against PacWest opponents in order to reach the PacWest Conference Tournament in March.

“We’ve gotta be good in the PacWest. We’ve gotta finish in the top few teams in our league. If we do that, we give ourselves the best chance of making the NCAA tournament,” Leslie said.

With only two seniors on the team and 14 underclassmen, which includes seven freshman, this is a new team with the same goal: to maintain the winning tradition of APU men’s basketball.

The Cougars will play their next game at Cal Poly Pomona on Friday, Nov. 4.