New Year, New Record for Men’s Basketball


Photo Courtesy of OC Athletics

The men’s basketball team looks to conclude their regular season on a high note tomorrow at Wabash College, after compiling the team’s best record in over a decade. The leadership and perseverance of the upperclassmen have been indispensable to the team’s success.

With 2.3 seconds left on the clock and the basketball in his hands, College junior and point guard Josh Friedkin didn’t miss a beat, swishing an off-balance jumper to secure a triple-overtime victory over the Allegheny College Gators last Wednesday. Three days later, Friedkin posted his first career double-double — 15 points and 10 assists — against the Hiram College Terriers, helping the Yeomen set a new program record for the most North Coast Athletic Conference wins in a season.

Friedkin has been a key piece of the puzzle since his first year, when he appeared in all 25 games and was second on the team in assists with 75. He ran plays alongside Jack Poyle, OC ’17, who started in 75 of the 99 games he played in as a Yeoman and scored 1,187 points, 16th-best in school history. Even so, that year’s team narrative was completely different.

In the 2016–17 season, the Yeomen won just three games, compiling an overall record of 3–22 and a conference record of 2–16. The following year, Friedkin scored a team-high 346 points and racked up 77 assists and 29 steals, but the team still posted a mediocre record of 12–14 and won only half of their conference matchups. Now, for the first time in over a decade, the Yeomen have a winning percentage over .500 both overall and in conference play.

A culmination of circumstances have guided the program’s turnaround — the most obvious being Head Coach Isaiah Cavaco’s exceptional job of recruiting talented student-athletes who are both coachable and hardworking.

College senior and co-captain Eli Silverman-Lloyd has been pivotal to the team throughout his career. He compiled a career-high 323 points as a junior and has already scored 299 points this year to go along with a career-high 52 assists. On Jan. 30, he became the 25th player in school history to score 1,000 career points, though he did so in a 70–80 loss to the Ohio Wesleyan University Battling Bishops.

As the only senior on the team — excepting honorary senior Patrick Smith, a 3-2 engineering major — Silverman-Lloyd has provided exemplary leadership.

“He has been excellent for us all year long,” Friedkin said. “If you want to talk about a steady presence on and off the court, a guy who you know is going to give you everything he has night in and night out, then Eli is your guy.”

Silverman-Lloyd’s co-captain, College junior Christian Fioretti, leads the league with 4.5 assists per game — while Friedkin is third in the league with 3.9 assists per game — and College junior Andre Campbell is well on his way to joining the 1,000 career points club, as he currently sits at 818 and has hit key shots all season.

However, even more than pure talent, Friedkin credits the program’s upslope to the simple fact that the team’s juniors and seniors are sick and tired of losing.

“The current junior class, myself included, was not happy with just getting to be a part of a collegiate basketball program,” he said. “We wanted to win games, and we wanted to be known around the league as a team that was not an easy win, as Oberlin has been in previous years. I think having to endure that three-win season our [first] year made us that much more determined to change the storyline of Oberlin basketball.”

Another one of Cavaco’s key moves that paid off was hiring Assistant Coaches Nate Axelrod and Jalen Goodwin over the summer. One year prior to his arrival at Oberlin, Axelrod was the 2018 Player of the Year at Ohio Wesleyan and won the Jostens Award, which recognizes the nation’s most outstanding DIII basketball player, taking into consideration performance on the court, academics, and community service. As a four-year starter and three-time All-American, he played on teams that won three NCAC titles, made two NCAA Tournament appearances, and appeared in the 2015–16 Sweet Sixteen.

“[Axelrod] had to deal with every opponent game-planning for him specifically for over 100 games, but nobody could really stop him from controlling the game,” Cavaco said. “You have to be a great leader, teammate, and student to pull that off.”

Axelrod handles scouting, player development, and recruiting for the Yeomen, and has already made a big impact on many of the players — especially Friedkin, who plays the same position that Axelrod did.

“I’d say he’s helped me the most with some mental aspects of the game, specifically making plays in the pick-and-roll,” Friedkin said. “It’s not a surprise that a large percentage of my points and assists come out of these plays.”

Goodwin has also helped reinforce a winning culture, having made it to four NCAA Tournaments as a member of The College of Wooster basketball team.

“Jalen was a great team guy at Wooster, as he played with a lot of stars but always managed to be one of the most important pieces on a winning team … by making open shots when teams focused on the top guys, playing outside his natural position, and being a leader in the locker room,” Cavaco said.

Although the Yeomen narrowly dropped an important game to Goodwin’s alma mater — the No. 14 team in the nation — Wednesday night, the team is looking ahead to their last regular season matchup with No. 24 Wabash College on Saturday.

“We feel that we are peaking as a team right now, which is perfect for the end of the season,” Silverman-Lloyd said. “We have shown that we can beat the mid-conference teams, so our next challenge is defeating the top teams.”

The fifth-seeded Yeomen will play in the NCAC Tournament Quarterfinals Tuesday. Their opponent has yet to be determined.