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Meet the New Bruins: Men’s basketball

The four new freshmen on Belmont’s men’s basketball team are excited to learn from coach Byrd and the upperclassmen as they get ready to start the 2018-2019 season.

Adam Kunkel of Hebron, Kentucky, discovered Belmont early in his junior year. He chose Belmont not only for basketball but also for its reputable academic standards.

“I chose Belmont for the high standards in academics they hold and for the reputation that Coach Byrd and the teammates have as well,” said Kunkel. “I couldn’t see myself stopping after high school, and I wanted to further my academics and athletics in college.”

Though it’s been difficult adjusting to the academic load and higher level of play at college, many of the difficulties have been overshadowed by the welcoming upperclassmen, said Waunakee, Wisconsin, native Mitch Listau.

“One of the reasons I came to Belmont was because of the teammates, and, so far, they have made it really easy on and off the court to adapt and feel a lot more comfortable,” he said.

That welcoming team atmosphere has also been important to Derek Sabin of Slinger, Wisconsin.

“One of my favorite things about playing basketball is the guys you are playing with. I don’t think there are a lot of places that you will find guys as good to play with or to be around,” he said.

For Sabin, this was a big change from high school.

“In high school you’re more like a big fish in a small pond, but once you get to college, you have to realize that everyone around is as good as you, and you have to compete and work harder,” Sabin said.

The freshmen are learning about that hard work from coach Rick Byrd, whose success has impressed the incoming Bruins, Kunkel said.

“I think he is one of the greatest and a legend in the NCAA. It’s awesome. He knows what he’s talking about, and he knows what he’s doing, so I’m not going to fight anything,” Kunkel said.

Rilee Epley of Evansville, Indiana, also admires Byrd’s knowledge and love for the game.

“His knowledge for the game teaches me on a daily basis,” said Epley. “I want to be the best person I can be and develop my on court skills. I love to compete, and I strive to achieve.”

Be sure to watch the new Bruins during their exciting home opener against Illinois State on Nov. 10 at the Curb Event Center at 7 p.m..

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This article written by Teagan Malecha. Photos courtesy of Belmont University Athletics.

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