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SEASON WRAP: MSSU men's basketball coach talks early season struggles following loss in MIAA tournament

Mar. 9—The Missouri Southern men's basketball team suffered a season-ending loss to Missouri Western State University on Wednesday night in the MIAA tournament in Kansas City.

The Lions' record ended at 13-16 for the year. They were 11-11 in conference play and 0-1 in the postseason.

Following the 62-56 loss, head coach Sam McMahon discussed some of the obstacles he and the team faced this year.

MSSU began the year at just 2-7 — far from what it believed it was capable of doing.

"What our guys experienced this season will help us in future years," McMahon said. "It will help them become not only better basketball players but better men. You cannot become the best without failure, without setbacks, without feeling uncomfortable."

For coach, those obstacles stretched beyond the basketball court and the team's early season struggles.

"When we were 2-7, 0-2 in the league, we had an infant child, my mother-in-law had a heart attack and I was like: 'Man, I'm uncomfortable right now. This is awful.'

"I had to go speak in front of a group of Lionbackers when we were just not playing good. That was my first time I had spoke in front of the Lionbackers all year. I got in my car, I called my wife and I said, 'You know what Holly, everybody should have to do that.' When things aren't going your way, when things are a little overwhelming and then you have to go talk to people and explain why. That uneasiness feeling and that hurt in your heart, everybody should feel that one time in their life just because it makes them better."

The Lions improved from that point to go 11-9 the rest of the way and finishing the year 13-16 and 11-11 in conference play.

McMahon's mother-in-law has since recovered from the heart attack and triple bypass surgery to be back home after spending extended time in the hospital.

"It was scary for a little bit but she's back home now and doing good," he said.

And his newborn baby boy, Devin James, hasn't made life too busy just yet.

"If there is such a thing as a worst time to have a baby, the worst time is at the start of the basketball season," McMahon said with a laugh. "But it's been a blessing. It's crazy at the McMahon household but it's a blessing. Just a little more work when I get home."

As McMahon gets a feel for being a father of four now, he will also look to move into the 2024-25 campaign and build on the bright spots of this season while also correcting some of his team's struggles.

The Lions will lose grad transfer Cam Williams, who spent probably half of this season injured. Coach McMahon talked about Williams' character to stay with the team and not go back home after realizing his season was over due to knee injury.

"That was a big loss for us. His knee is all tore up and needs surgery. I feel bad for him. He could've went back home but decided to stick it out with the team and watch the guys. He's a great kid to have around and we enjoyed him this year," McMahon said.

Vinson Sigmon Jr. is also departing due to graduation along with Lawson Jenkins, Winston Dessesow and Parker Long.

Martin Macenis plans to return for another year of eligibility despite graduating this year.

MSSU will bring in an athletic guard in the 6-foot-4, 175-pound, electric Tyrique Brooks. Brooks won the slam dunk competition in the Blue & Gold Tournament in Springfield this year. Brooks is a standout from Central High School in Springfield. He and the Bulldogs won a district tournament this year and are playing in the state tournament against Rockhurst at 4 p.m. Saturday.

McMahon looks to add a couple more high school kids and maybe some transfers for next season.

"We are looking for certain guys. It can't be just anyone. We want guys with the right character," he said. "We're building a culture here. We want to get guys who love basketball and love to win and we're getting that with Tyrique Brooks."

Coach added that people can expect freshman guard Isaiah Atwater to have a big year next year as the lead point guard. Atwater was redshirted for the 2023-24 season.